Scientists carrying almost everything visible on board NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have recorded not one but two astronomical needles in two galactic haystacks; fusion of pairs of quasars that can reveal how galaxies form.
Utilizing the wealth of information gathered by the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite and the terrestrial Sloan Digital Sky Survey, scientists narrowed their search for these rare, albeit extremely bright, double quasars, which were clearly hidden among stars across the universe. .
A quasar is the extremely bright core of a galaxy, fed by the insatiable appetite of a nearby supermassive black hole, whose lush eating habits release massive radiation so bright that it can overshadow entire galaxies like our own Milky Way.
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“We estimate that in the distant universe for every 1,000 quasars there is a double quasar. So finding these double quasars is like finding a needle in a haystack, ” said lead researcher Yue Shen of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Looking 10 billion years back in time across space, scientists found a pair of quasars so close together that they appear to be a particularly violent object. Then, rather serendipitously, they found another quasar pair in a separate colliding pair of galaxies.
The discovery will deepen humanity’s understanding of the exact process behind the rather violent collection of two massive celestial structures, providing new insights into the fusion of galaxies and collisions with supermassive black holes.
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When quasars, or galactic nuclei, come together, they generate galactic winds that sweep the remaining gas from the merging galaxies, slowing or directly stopping the new star formation so that the new, unique galaxy can form into an elliptical shape.
Just over 100 of these double quasars have been discovered so far, though none as old as these two new pairs. The quasars in each of the two new pairs are only 10,000 light-years apart. For reference, the Sun is 26,000 light-years from the supermassive black hole in the middle of the Milky Way.
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