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News Release 12 of 28

January 10, 2006 10:30 AM (EST)

News Release Number: STScI-2006-04

Monster Black Holes Grow After Galactic Mergers

An American Astronomical Society Meeting Release

January 10, 2006: An analysis of the Hubble Space Telescope's deepest view of the universe offers compelling evidence that monster black holes in the centers of galaxies were not born big but grew over time through repeated galactic mergers. The Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) studies also confirm recent computer simulations that predict that newly merging galaxies are enshrouded in so much dust that astronomers cannot see black holes feasting on stars and gas from the mergers. The computer simulations, as supported by Hubble, suggest that it takes hundreds of millions to a billion years before enough dust clears so that astronomers can see the black holes feasting on stars and gas from the merger. These postage-stamp-size images reveal 36 young galaxies caught in the act of merging with other galaxies. These galaxies appear as they existed many billions of years ago. Astronomers have dubbed them "tadpole galaxies" because of their distinct knot-and-tail shapes, which suggest that they are engaging in galactic mergers.

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Credit: NASA, ESA, A. Straughn, S. Cohen and R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and the HUDF team (STScI)