An X-ray image (in blue) with an optical zoom in the picture (gold and brown) with the center of the galaxy a hidden cluster, which harbours a supermassive black hole. (Image: Taweewat Somboonpanyakul)
Scientists at MIT have discovered that there is a cluster that they say is “hiding in plain sight.”
Located just 2.4 billion light-years from Earth, the cluster consists of hundreds of galaxies, scientists said in a statement. The galaxies are surrounded by a quasar, or active supermassive black hole.
A light-year, which measures distance in space is equal to 6 trillion miles.
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The central quasar, known as PKS1353-341, is very bright, so clear, indeed, that has long obscured the galaxies in the neighborhood. The research is published in the Astrophysical Journal.
The quasar is said to be 46 billion times brighter than the Sun, probably the result of a “feeding frenzy.” The black hole is consuming material in the near and radiates huge amounts of energy, scientists said.
“This can be a short-lived phase that clusters go through, where the central black hole has a quick meal, get the light, and then disappears again,” said study author Michael McDonald, assistant professor in physics at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, in the statement. “This could be a blip that we happen to see. In a million years, this would be seen as a diffuse fuzzball.”
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Scientists are now looking for more clusters of hidden galaxies. The clusters can provide important clues to help the researchers estimate how much matter there is in the universe and how fast the universe is expanding.
Experts from the university of Princeton University, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in Chile, and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics also participated in the study.
Earlier this year, in a separate project, scientists announced the discovery of planets outside the Milky way.
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Using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatory, a team of astrophysicists from the University of Oklahoma identified the extragalactic planets about 3.8 billion light-years away. The space observatory have helped scientists to find over 2,000 objects with similar mass to Jupiter and the Moon.
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