HEA Research: Extragalactic Surveys

Viewed in X-rays the night sky glows brightly and uniformly in all directions. The origin of this 'cosmic X-ray background' was one of two great puzzles set by the very first observations of X-rays from beyond the Solar System by Riccardo Giacconi and his team back in 1963. (For which Giacconi won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2002 (see:Riccardo Giacconi .) To solve the puzzle required sensitive X-ray telescopes, culminating in the Chandra X-ray Observatory . This X-ray glow is due to the summed emission from millions of faint quasars and active galactic nuclei that can now be seen individually in deep Chandra images.
To discover this answer required surveys of the sky away from the confusing and absorbing plane of the Milky Way, so objects in our Galaxy contribute little leading these to be called 'Extragalactic Surveys'. Even though we no know the answer, HEA scientists continue to make new extragalactic surveys to learn more about how quasars evolve over the history of the universe, and to study even fainter sources - distant galaxies and, eventually, the first stars, galaxies and black holes to form in the universe.

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Tom Aldcroft, Martin Elvis, Bill Forman, Antonella Fruscione, Paul Green, Christine Jones, Steve Murray, Belinda Wilkes


Caption: A wide-field panorama, in the constellation Bootes, reveals more than a thousand supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies. [The size of the Moon is shown for comparison.]


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