MAR 08, 2021 6:13 PM PST

Newly observed quasar jet sheds light on early galaxy formation

New observations from the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) and Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) report documenting the farthest cosmic jet ever discovered. The jet – observed in a quasar 13 billion light-years from Earth – is the first to be found at such a distance and with such a strong radio emission. The findings are published in the Astrophysical Journal and the Astronomical Journal.

Quasars are tremendously luminous active galactic nuclei that harbor supermassive black holes, often much, much more massive than the sun, which are then encircled by gases. Few quasars have been documented with having cosmic jets like the one recently observed.

Why, you may be asking, should we be interested in these far-off galactic entities? The astronomers who observed the cosmic jet say that its particles appear to be only approximately 1,000 years old and that because of the quasar’s distance, we are seeing it as it was when the universe was a mere 780 million years old (a spring chicken, in universe-age!). This means that we can use these observations to garner key data about how galaxies and supermassive black holes evolved in the early universe.

"The black holes at the cores of many of these very distant quasars are so massive that they challenge our understanding of how they could have grown in the relatively short time available to them that early in the universe's history. One possibility is that jets provided a mechanism that allowed the black holes to grow more quickly. Finding a jet in a quasar at this epoch is an exciting clue about this question," noted Emmanuel Momjian, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).

P172+18, as the object is called, was first seen in 2015 in observations from the Pan-STARRS sky survey using a visible-light telescope in Hawaii. Later, through infrared observations and the NRAO's FIRST survey, the team observed a radio-emitting object at the same position, which they determined were within the same object. This triangulation was key to understanding the significance of the jet’s location.

"Jets have a role in regulating star formation and the growth of their host galaxies, so this discovery is valuable to understanding these processes in the early universe," says NRAO’s Chris Carilli. "The jets at that time also propelled atoms and magnetic fields into what had been pristine space between the galaxies," he concludes.

Sources: NRAO, Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
DEC 27, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
The Coolest Molecules of 2020
DEC 27, 2020
The Coolest Molecules of 2020
2020 was a chaotic, stressful year for most, but it did not stop innovative ideas and creative scientific thinking from ...
JAN 05, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Liquid glass: a new state of matter
JAN 05, 2021
Liquid glass: a new state of matter
New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports the discovery of a new state ...
JAN 16, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Rare earth ions act as qubits for quantum computer
JAN 16, 2021
Rare earth ions act as qubits for quantum computer
New research published recently in the scientific journal Optics Communications highlights the discovery of rare ea ...
JAN 25, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Optimizing laser beams in complex, irregular environments
JAN 25, 2021
Optimizing laser beams in complex, irregular environments
New research published in the acclaimed journal Nature Physics reports that researchers from Utrecht University in the N ...
APR 01, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Solubility Factors When Choosing a Solvent
APR 01, 2021
Solubility Factors When Choosing a Solvent
Solubility Factors When Choosing a Solvent Solubility functions by a group of rules that determine how dissolvable a sub ...
MAR 31, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Can superconductor materials be produced under ambient pressures?
MAR 31, 2021
Can superconductor materials be produced under ambient pressures?
A new study published in Physical Review Letters reports on the development of the fabrication of superconducting materi ...
Loading Comments...