NuSTAR has recently identified two gas-enshrouded massive black holes that are located at the center of nearby galaxies.

NASA’s NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) can detect massive black holes by analyzing high energy X-rays emitted by material in our universe. In a study of galaxy IC 3639 (170 million light-years from Earth). Researches used NuSTAR data compared with Chandra X-Ray Observatory data, and Suzaku satellite data to confirm that IC 3639 had an active nucleus. The active nucleus is a super-massive blackhole.

The study also focused on NGC 1448, a galaxy with a super massive black hole at it’s core discovered in 2009. The research confirmed this is the closest black hole to Earth that we are aware of. NGC 1448 is only 38 million light years away, where one light year is roughly 6 trillion miles.

NGC 1448, a galaxy with an active galactic nucleus hidden by gas and dust, is seen in this image.
Credits: Carnegie-Irvine Galaxy Survey/NASA/JPL-Caltech

“These black holes are relatively close to the Milky Way, but they have remained hidden from us until now,” said Ady Annuar, a graduate student at Durham University in the United Kingdom, who presented the results at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Grapevine, Texas. “They’re like monsters hiding under your bed.”

This galaxy, called IC 3639, also contains an example of an obscured supermassive black hole.
Credits: ESO/NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI

NuSTAR is led by Caltech and managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. It was developed with the Danish Technical University and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and built by Orbital Sciences Corp.

“It is exciting to use the power of NuSTAR to get important, unique information on these beasts, even in our cosmic backyard where they can be studied in detail,” said Daniel Stern, NuSTAR project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.