VLBA image of the quasar P352-15 at a distance of almost 13 billion light-years from Earth. The three main components of the object are seen, with two of them showing a further substructure.
You’ll need more than a pair of sunglasses to look at this shiny object in the sky.
The brightest object in the universe is discovered, a quasar from when the universe was just 7 percent of its current age.
The quasar, now known as PSO J352.4034-15.3373 (P352-15 for short), was discovered 13 billion light-years away from the Earth by the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) radio telescope.
“We see P352-15 as it was when the Universe was less than a billion years old, or only 7 percent of its current age,” said Chris Carilli, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), in a statement.
“This is near the end of a period when the first stars and galaxies were re-ionizing the neutral hydrogen atoms, which due to the intergalactic space.”
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Carilli added: “Further remarks we can make use of this quasar as background ‘lamp’ for measuring the amount of neutral hydrogen even at that time.”
Quasars are defined as a very luminous active galactic nucleus, powered by a black hole that is a billion times heavier than the Sun, according to Space.com.
The light and radio emissions, as seen from the quasar, in fact, be caused by the matter around the black hole itself, which is known as an accretion disk. The drive eventually speeds up to a huge space, pulling in the dust and gas so that it looks like water went down a drain, according to ScienceAlert.
The researchers findings were published in The Astrophysical Journal on July 9.
Eduardo Banados, of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Pasadena, Calif., noted that there is a “shortage of well-known strong radio emitters of the universe’s first days,” making this a such an important find.
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The quasar eventually split into three separate parts, the VLBA found and the researchers will try to figure out why.
They have two theories so far.
The first explanation is that the images that the researchers see is the bright core of the quasar itself, “which correspond to the location of the supermassive black hole itself, on the one hand, and the two other light spots are parts of a one-sided jet.”
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“This quasar may be the farthest object in which we could measure the speed of such a jet,” said Emmanuel Momjian, of the NRAO.
The other explanation is that the middle object is actually the core and the other objects are jets ejected in opposite direction.
More research is needed to determine which scenario is true, but the first explanation is the most likely.
Despite that, P352-15 offers a lot for researchers to learn more about the history of the universe, how it was formed and how it evolves.
“This quasar is the brightness and the large distance to make it a unique tool in the study of the conditions and processes that prevailed in the first galaxies in the Universe,” Carilli said. “We look forward to the unraveling of his mysteries.”
Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia