Published: Thu, January 10, 2019
Research | By Raquel Erickson

Hubble loses best camera but discovers brightest ever quasar

Hubble loses best camera but discovers brightest ever quasar

A quasar is an extremely bright nucleus of an active galaxy. The quasar is one of the brightest objects in the early Universe.

"That's something we have been looking for a long time", he said.

It's not all bad news, however: the Hubble recently captured the brightest quasar in the early universe, the space agency revealed on Wednesday.

Light from the the brightest object ever discovered has reached Earth - and it is reportedly being "emitted from the dawn of time".

Quasars similar to J0439 existed during the period of reionization of the young Universe, when radiation from young galaxies and quasars reheated the obscuring hydrogen that had cooled off just 400,000 years after the Big Bang; the Universe reverted from being neutral to once again being an ionized plasma.

'When we combined the Gemini data with observations from multiple observatories on Maunakea, the Hubble Space Telescope, and other observatories around the world, we were able to paint a complete picture of the quasar and the intervening galaxy, ' said Feige Wang of the University of California, Santa Barbara, who is a member of the discovery team. "We don't expect to find many quasars brighter than that in the whole observable Universe!".

Credit: NASA, ESA, Xiaohui Fan (University of Arizona) The spectroscopic data also allowed the researchers to estimate the mass of the quasar's central supermassive black hole; they calculated it at around 700 million times that of the sun.


With these telescopes they will be able to look in the vicinity of the supermassive black hole and directly measure the influence of its gravity on the surrounding gas and star formation.

The ageing telescope's wide-field camera could be turned off for a while as NASA employees are unable to fix it because of the indefinite political impasse.

Observations at submillimeter wavelengths with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope on Maunakea, Hawaii, suggest that the black hole is not only accreting gas but may be triggering star birth at a prodigious rate of 10,000 stars per year; by comparison, our Milky Way Galaxy makes one star per year. Fabian Walter, from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany.

Named after the American astronomer Edwin Hubble, the veteran telescope has been cranking away for more than quarter of century since it was launched in 1990.

Although its brightness is impressive, it was only thanks to gravitational lensing (caused by a dim galaxy between it and Earth), which bent the light and made it appear 50 times as bright, that scientists could see it.

The astronomers only came across it because of a galaxy in the foreground that acted as a gravitational lens - amplifying the ancient light from the quasar. Now they are analyzing a detailed 20-hour spectrum from the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, which will allow them to identify the chemical composition and temperatures of intergalactic gas in the early Universe.

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