News of the WeekAstronomy

Starving Black Holes Sound an SOS

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Science  23 Apr 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5414, pp. 567-568
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5414.567a

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The Japanese Advanced Satellite for Cosmology and Astrophysics has picked up feeble high-energy x-rays from six old, nearby galaxies--the distress signals of supermassive black holes starving to death. Or so say American and British astronomers who presented their results last week at the meeting of the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society in Charleston, South Carolina. The results suggest that the giant black holes powering quasars, brilliant galaxylike objects in the early universe, did not shut down completely as their food supply--interstellar gas--dwindled.