June 6, 2023

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Astronomers have just solved a 60-year-old mystery regarding the brightest objects in the universe

One of the most mysterious things in the universe just got a lot less mysterious.

For the sixty years since they were first discovered, astronomers have puzzled over what quasars are. What we know is this: they are among the brightest and most powerful objects in the entire universe. they to the fullest Far from Earth, however, it can shine like a trillion Stars as they gather in a small space like our solar system – this is a highly concentrated level of energy.

But until this week, astronomers weren’t quite sure what caused these intense outbursts in the first place.

Quasars are powered by supermassive black holes, and sometimes they emit waves of matter that can annihilate young stars.

The term quasar is a series of quasi-stellar radio sources—so named because when they were first identified, astronomers like Hong Yiqiu, who coined the term, were completely baffled by these strange interstellar objects. Their intense gravity can create illusions in physics known as gravitational lens, in which the light is distorted just like cosmic magnifying glasses. More recently, several decades ago, it was difficult even to tell in which direction this lens came from.

When we narrowed it down, we learned that quasars lie at the center of galaxies, giant swirling disks of stars, gas, dust and dark matter bound together by gravity. This may seem counterintuitive, but galaxies must revolve around it something. Most galaxies, including our own, have a central supermassive black hole around which everything revolves – so named because these dead stars can number anywhere from a hundred thousand to ten billion times larger from our sun. The Milky Way revolves around a supermassive black hole with the sweet name Sagittarius A*. Because humans had the telescope technology to detect black hole mergers – which, admittedly, weren’t very long in coming – we haven’t yet detected the merger of two supermassive black holes. When we do, the blast will be incalculable.

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But some galaxies have much different objects at their center called an active galactic nucleus (AGN). They can be quite volatile, like blazars, which are active galactic nuclei that emit jets of ionized matter that travel almost at the speed of light. But quasars are much denser active galactic nuclei. they Powered by supermassive black holesSometimes belching Waves of matter can cut small stars. As such, they have become an essential part of our understanding of the early universe and the evolution of galaxies.

Unfortunately, despite their importance and incredible destructive power, quasars are difficult to study due to their extreme distance and brightness. They also don’t have very long lifetimes relative to when the events causing them occur, and their brightness can vary over time, further complicating observations and muddying the data. All this made their origins unclear.

A new study in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society It sheds light on the question of quasars, essentially solving one of the central mysteries of how quasars form. The answer could lie in colliding galaxies.

As the researchers explain, it seems that the collision of galaxies creates the necessary conditions for the birth of a quasar. In fact, such violent entanglements could cause enough gas to flow toward supermassive black holes that quasar activity begins even before the two galaxies have fully merged.

This theory has been put forward before, but there has never been solid direct evidence before. The researchers, led by Jonathan Pearce, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Hertfordshire, observed nearly 50 quasar-host galaxies and compared them to more than 100 galaxies devoid of quasars. similar comparisons It has been made many times before, but this is the first time many quasars have been imaged with such sensitivity. They used deep imaging observations from the Isaac Newton telescope in La Palma, a Spanish colony of the Canary Islands, and concluded that galaxies hosting quasars are about three times more likely to collide or interact with other galaxies.

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In the study, the authors said their images of quasars “provide strong evidence that galactic interactions are the dominant mechanism for driving quasars in the local universe.” This, they said, is consistent with quasars of different “brightness,” meaning varied strength of its radio emissions.

“Quarsons play a major role in our understanding of the history of the universe, and possibly also the future of the Milky Way.”

All quasars are very far away, which means they are also in the distant past, because of the way that distance relates to earlier points in time when we look at distant objects. However, there may be a quasar nearby in a few billion years, if you can wait that long. When the Milky Way collides with the Andromeda galaxy in a protracted process that will happen in approximately five billion years, the consequences will likely produce a quasar.

“Quasars are one of the most extreme phenomena in the universe, and what we see is likely to represent the future of our Milky Way galaxy when it collides with the Andromeda galaxy in about five billion years,” said Professor Clive Tadhunter, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and one of the paper’s co-authors. He said in a statement. “It is exciting to observe these events and finally understand why they happened – but fortunately, Earth will not be anywhere near one of these apocalyptic events for some time.”

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It took decades of work to get to where we are now with our understanding of quasars, and is central to shaping our theories about how the universe formed and where it’s headed. As explained by Pierce, lead author of the study in the same statement, “One of the main science thrusts of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope was to study the oldest galaxies in the universe, and Webb is able to detect light from even the most distant quasars, emitted nearly 13 billion years ago.” Play Quasars play a major role in our understanding of the history of the universe, and possibly also the future of the Milky Way.”

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