Researchers with almost all-seeing eyes aboard NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have discovered not one but two astronomical needles in two galactic shadows; combining pairs of quasars that can reveal how galaxies form.
Using the wealth of information gathered by the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, researchers are narrowing their hunt for these rare, albeit extremely bright, double quasars, hidden in the stars of the universe.
The quasar is the extremely bright core of a galaxy, fueled by the insatiable appetite of a nearby supermassive black hole, whose insatiable eating habits release a massive explosion so bright it can overshadow entire galaxies like our own Milky Way.
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“We believe that in the distant universe there is one double quasar for every 1,000 quasars. 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 back 10 billion years in time, in space, researchers found a pair of quasars so close together that they look like a particularly violent object. Then, quite by chance, they found another pair of quasars in a separate colliding pair of galaxies.
The discovery will deepen humanity’s understanding of the exact process behind the rather violent convergence of two massive celestial structures, which will provide new insights into the merging of galaxies and the collisions of supermassive black holes.
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When quasars or galactic nuclei come together, they generate a galactic wind that carries the residual gas from the merging galaxies, slowing or even stopping the formation of a new star, allowing the new, single galaxy to form an elliptical shape.
So far, just over 100 of these double quasars have been discovered, although none are as old as these two new pairs. The quasars in each of the two new pairs are only 10,000 light-years away. For reference, the Sun is 26,000 light-years from the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.
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