Scientists Find Power-Packed Galaxies

Tuesday, February 28, 2017 - 20:59

Clemson University scientists, led by College of Science astrophysicist Marco Ajello, have identified a supermassive, extremely powerful black hole, and four others similar to it that range in age from 1.4 billion to 1.9 billion years old.

The objects emit copious gamma rays, light of the highest energy, that are billions of times more energetic than light that is visible to the human eye, phys.org reports.

The previously known earliest gamma-ray blazars—a type of galaxy whose intense emission is powered by extremely powerful relativistic jets launched by monstrous black holes—were more than 2 billion years old. Currently, the universe is estimated to be approximately 14 billion years old.

Ajello, who has spent much of his career studying the evolution of distant galaxies, stated that, “The discovery of these supermassive black holes, which launch jets that emit more energy in one second than our sun will produce in its entire lifetime, was the culmination of a yearlong research project.”

He continued that the next step is to increase the understanding of the mechanisms involved in the formation, development and activities of these amazing objects, which are the most powerful accelerators in the universe, “We can't even come close to replicating such massive outputs of energy in our laboratories. The complexities we're attempting to unravel seem almost as mysterious as the black holes themselves."

Ajello conducted his research in conjunction with Clemson post-doc Vaidehi Paliya and Ph.D candidate Lea Marcotulli. The trio worked closely with the Fermi-Large Area Telescope collaboration, which is an international team of scientists that includes Roopesh Ojha, an astronomer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; and Dario Gasparrini of the Italian Space Agency. Their scientific paper titled "Gamma-Ray Blazars Within the First 2 Billion Years" was published Monday in a journal called Astrophysical Journal Letters. (Ackermann, M., et al. 2017, ApJL, 837, L5.)

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