What burns brighter than a quasar – the hungry, supermassive black holes to overshadow entire galaxies as they greedily eat everything within reach?
How about a “double quasar?”
In a new study, astronomers used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to look 10 billion years into the cosmic past, where they discovered two giant quasars on the verge of colliding. These hungry quasars sit at the center of their respective galaxies and have less than 10,000 light years with breathing spaces between them and puts them much closer together than the earthThe sun is in the middle of the Milky Way (about 26,000 light years away).
For terrestrial telescopes, quasar neighbors look like a single object ̵
Related: The universe’s oldest known quasar discovered 13 billion light-years away
This is not the first double quasar that astronomers have ever discovered; according to the study authors, more than 100 have been discovered to date. However, the old pair of flaming lights is by far the oldest double quasar in the known universe. And in fact, it is not alone; in the same study published April 1 in the journal Natural astronomy, the researchers reported the detection of another double quasar – also dated to 10 billion years ago.
“We estimate that in the distant universe for every 1,000 quasars there is a double quasar,” leads author Yue Shen of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said in a statement. “So finding these double quasars is like finding a needle in a haystack.”
For their new study, the researchers carefully selected their haystacks. The team focused their search on the distant universe, as star formation is thought to have peaked in the universe about 10 billion years ago, and galactic mergers were much more common at the time, the authors said. These fusions drew enormous amounts of matter against the black holes lurking in the cores of galaxies; As the black holes sucked matter into almost light speeds, they released a stream of radiation and became quasars.
Quasars can overshadow large galaxies, although their brightness can fluctuate every few days, weeks or months, depending on how much substance they are eating up at that time. Because of this difficult eating plan, it appears that a double quasar “jiggles” in place when one member of the pair lights up or dims while the other remains static. Using the Gaia Space Observatory and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the study authors targeted several sparkling quasars in the distant universe and then zoomed in with the Hubble Telescope.
Two of these jiggling light sources turned out to be the old double quasars that flickered against their inevitable collisions.
According to the researchers, study of fused quasars can help them understand the nuances of galaxy formation – and destruction. As quasars grow, their radiation can generate powerful winds that can eventually blow all the star-forming gas out of their way. When this gas is gone, star formation ends and the galaxies that house the Quasars retire early, slowly waiting for all their old stars to burn out and disappear.
“Quasars have a profound impact on galaxy formation in the universe,” co-author Nadia Zakamska of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, said in the statement. “Finding double quasars in this early epoch is important because we can now test our perennial ideas about how black holes and their host galaxies evolve together.”
Originally published on WordsSideKick.com.