09 April 2003 - Giant black holes appear
Thousands of enormous black holes have been discovered by a European orbiting space telescope called XMM-Newton. Most are embedded in distant galaxies which lie billions of light years away. A new catalogue released on April 7th lists more than 30,000 X-ray emitting astronomical objects. About two-thirds of these are "supermassive black holes" which contain the mass of a billion Suns.
Dr Simon Rosen, from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) explained: "X-rays are produced in extreme environments, for example around black holes, neutron stars and white dwarf stars, and supernovae where temperatures exceed a million degrees. X-ray sources in the Universe are some of the most bizarre and violent systems known."
The catalogue represents the fruits of a year's work by a dedicated international consortium including scientists from MSSL which is based at Holmbury St. Mary near Dorking and is part of University College London. The team, led by Leicester University, also includes the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge and several major European astronomy institutes. MSSL is a key player in this international collaboration, having designed and built the Optical Monitor (OM) instrument for the satellite.
Dr. Rosen added, "The XMM-Newton X-ray catalogue will ultimately expand to include around half a million X-ray sources. Together with an ultraviolet catalogue being made at MSSL for the OM data, it will provide a rich resource for years to come for astronomers at MSSL and all over the world."
Dr. Simon Rosen, Mullard Space Science Laboratory
Phone: 01483 204228
Fax: 01483 278132
Prof Keith Mason, MSSL (01483 204100)
Dr. Mike Watson, Leicester University (0116 2523553)