Supermassive black holes are pretty much the scariest, most dangerous objects in the universe. They usually rest at the heart of galaxies, gobbling up any stray matter that has the misfortune of getting close to them, devouring everything from dust and gas to entire stars. Now NASA has just found about 2.5 million more of these engines of destruction lurking out there in the cold depths of space, and it’s all thanks to a space telescope that was shut down in February, 2011.
NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) space telescope yielded a ton of information during the two years it remained in service. The amount of data it collected was so vast that, even after the space telescope went into standby mode, astronomers are still finding things hidden in its data to this day. The newest revelation announced by NASA just today was that they had found 2.5 million objects known as quasars. Quasars are active supermassive black holes that spew out tons of radiation as they devour material flowing into them. Scientists have long suspected that there were far more of these monsters in the universe than has been observed, and now they have confirmation that the cosmos is brimming with them.
In addition to the wealth of black holes, WISE has also found a large assortment of what astronomers have given the unfortunately corny name of Hot DOGs. Hot DOGs stands for hot, dust-obscured galaxies. These hot galaxies are actually some of the brightest in the universe, but a shroud of dust makes them all but invisible to astronomers. It is thought that these Hot DOGS could be the missing link in the evolution of galaxies that happens when they are in the process of changing from a spiral disk like our own, into a smoother elliptical galaxy.
WISE’s spiritual successor, NuStar, successfully launched this past June, and will no doubt make good use of the new findings.