Most Powerful Known Quasar Discovered

By Belinda McCallum On November 28, 2012 @ 4:00 pm In Space & Astronomy | No Comments

Artist’s impression of the huge outflow ejected from the quasar SDSS J1106+1939. (ESO/L. Calçada)

Artist’s impression of the huge outflow ejected from the quasar SDSS J1106+1939. (ESO/L. Calçada)

A quasar with the largest ever outflow has been found using the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT).

The object is at least five times more powerful than previously observed quasars, with energies expected from theoretical simulations but never observed before.

Quasars are highly energetic galactic nuclei associated with supermassive black holes. They often send out huge volumes of material and affect the evolution of galaxies.

The blast streaming from the quasar, called SDSS J1106+1939, is around 1,000 light-years away from the supermassive black hole at its center, and is traveling at about 8,000 kilometers (4,970 miles) per second.

“We have discovered the most energetic quasar outflow known to date,” said research team leader Nahum Arav at Virginia Tech in a press release. “The rate that energy is carried away by this huge mass of material ejected at high speed from SDSS J1106+1939 is at least equivalent to 2 million million times the power output of the sun.

“This is about 100 times higher than the total power output of the Milky Way galaxy—it’s a real monster of an outflow.”

The researchers have spotted another quasar with a powerful outflow, and are exploring other similar ones to understand whether these objects are found throughout the universe.

According to various theories, such immense outflows could explain various cosmological mysteries, such as why there are so few large galaxies.

“I’ve been looking for something like this for a decade, so it’s thrilling to finally find one of the monster outflows that have been predicted!” Arav concluded.

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