Scientists have uncovered a major puzzle surrounding quasars, the brightest and most powerful objects in the universe. These celestial phenomena exist at the center of active galaxies and are trillions of times more luminous than the Sun.
The study findings indicate that some quasars are activated by galaxy collisions, a colossal event that propels gas and dust toward black holes. supermassive at the center of galaxies. When these black holes gobble up this material, they produce huge beams of energy visible from distant parts of the universe.
Some of these rays are pointed towards our planet, creating an optical illusion that seems to defy the laws of physics.
A recent study led by Jonathon Pierce, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hertfordshire, has provided new insights into the origin of quasars. Quasars are a type of active galactic nuclei (AGN) that emit radiation across the entire spectrum of light and are powered by supermassive black holes.
Pierce’s team observed 48 quasars at a distance of about two billion light-years from Earth and found clear evidence that galaxy interactions are the main trigger for quasar activity in the local universe.
Galaxy collisions can bring large amounts of combustible gas to the central locations of galaxies where the activity occurs, making them an attractive means to initiate quasar activity.
These findings could even offer a glimpse into the future of our Milky Way galaxy, which may become a quasar when it collides with the nearby Andromeda galaxy in 4.5 billion years.
Scientists unlocked one of the biggest mysteries of quasars
- Scientists have discovered that the powerful activity of quasars, which were first discovered 60 years ago and can shine as brightly as a trillion stars in a tiny volume, is triggered by galactic collisions.
- By looking at 48 quasar-hosting galaxies and comparing them to more than 100 non-quasar galaxies, the scientists found that when two galaxies collide, enormous amounts of gas are pushed into the supermassive black holes at the center of the remnant galaxy system.
- Just before the gas is consumed by the black hole, it releases extraordinary amounts of energy in the form of radiation, resulting in a quasar. This finding sheds new light on the mysterious origin of quasars.
- Furthermore, our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is expected to become a quasar in about five billion years when it collides with the Andromeda galaxy.
Significance of quasars
The ignition of a quasar can cause the displacement of gas in the galaxy and cause “outflow” of material due to the intense radiation pressure. This can have significant consequences for star formation, since in extreme cases a substantial amount of gas can be displaced.
Scientists predict that the collision of the Milky Way with the Andromeda galaxy in about 5 billion years could trigger a quasar, offering a glimpse into the future of our own galaxy.
Clive Tadhunter, from the University of Sheffield’s department of physics and astronomy, said quasars are among the most extreme phenomena in the universe and could represent the future of the Milky Way.
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