Super bright quasar may shed light on universe-youth

An artistic illustration of a radio-jet spew fast-moving material of the newly discovered quasar PSO J352.4034-15.3373, which is located about 13 billion light-years from Earth. Artwork by Robin Dienel, courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science. Credit: Credit: Robin Dienel/Carnegie Institution for Science

A new quasar is blasting from the brightest radio emission ever observed in the early universe, new research reports.

Quasars, the brightest objects in the cosmos, consisting of huge black holes gobbling matter in the hearts of huge galaxies. Quasars emit mostly radio waves, which have the longest wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum, much longer than those of visible light.

The newly discovered quasar, called PSO J352.4034-15.3373, is located almost 13 billion light-years from Earth — the meaning of the radio emissions have zoomed through space for some 13 billion years before reaching our planet.

PSO J352.4034-15.3373 therefore offers a glimpse into the early days of the universe, which originated with the big Bang 13.82 billion years ago. And the looks of this kind are quite rare, the quasar’s discoverers said.

“There is a shortage of well-known strong radio emitters of the universe’s youth, and this is the brightest radio quasar at that time by an order of magnitude,”Eduardo Bañados, of the Carnegie Institution of Science in Washington, D. C., said in a statement.

Bañados led the team that found PSO J352.4034-15.3373. That first discovery was followed by Emmanuel Momjian, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, whose observations have allowed astronomers to characterise the quasar — and spot a beam of superfast plasma spewing out of the exotic object.

These jets, which the material moves with almost the speed of light, could help astronomers better understand the distant past in which the universe’s first stars formed and began clumping together, researchers said.

“The radius of this quasar could serve as an important calibration tool to help with future projects penetrate in to the dark ages and maybe show how the earliest galaxies were formed,” Bañados said in the statement.

This discovery is described in two articles published online today (July 9) in The Astrophysical Journal.

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