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Supermassive black hole spotted hiding in cosmic dust 47M light-years from Earth

By Rich Klein
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Supermassive black hole spotted hiding in cosmic dust 47M light-years from Earth
The left panel of this image shows a dazzling view of the active galaxy Messier 77 captured by the European Space Agency's Very Large Telescope. The right panel shows a blow-up view of the very inner region of this galaxy with the MATISSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer, revealing a black hole that had been hidden by gas and dust. Photo by ESO/Jaffe, Gámez-Rosas et al.

Feb. 16 (UPI) -- A supermassive black hole that was hiding in a ring of cosmic dust has been detected in an active galaxy by the European Southern Observatory, which made the announcement on Wednesday.

The galaxy is located about 47 million light-years from Earth, in the constellation Cetus, researchers said in the new study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

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The observatory said that the findings "have confirmed predictions made around 30 years ago and are giving astronomers new insight into 'active galactic nuclei' (AGN), some of the brightest and most enigmatic objects in the universe."

Taken by the ESO's Very Large Telescope Interferometer in northern Chile, the observations shed new light on galaxies that have an active galactic nucleus at their core.

AGNs are a compact region of space at the center of galaxies and cause those galaxies to be much more bright than others.

"Our results should lead to a better understanding of the inner workings of AGNs," study lead author Violeta Gámez Rosas said in a press release., lead author of the study who is from The Netherlands.

"They could also help us better understand the history of the Milky Way, which harbors a supermassive black hole at its center that may have been active in the past," said Gámez Rosas, a doctoral candidate at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

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