DEC 23, 2020 9:06 AM PST

It's Not a Quasar, It's a Blazar

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

The National Science Foundation has a network of observing stations across the United States called the Very Long Baseline Array. There are ten stations in all, and each one has a 25-meter radio antenna dish and a building where the controls are housed. Each antenna collects radio signals that are amplified, digitized and recorded.

VLBA image of the blazar PSO J0309+27, 12.8 billion light-years from Earth. / Credit: Spingola et al.; Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF.

Now the VLBA has captured images of a jet of material that’s being ejected from the core of a galaxy. The material is racing out of the core, in the direction of the Earth, at three-quarters the speed of light. The galaxy, called PSO J0309+27 is estimated to be about 12.8 billion light years away from us, so we are seeing it as it appeared when the universe was under one billion years old, around seven percent of its age now.

PSO J0309+27 is a blazar. At the heart of most galaxies are black holes, whose gravitational pull takes in everything around it. As material is swallowed up by the black hole, gravitational energy could change into light, turning the system into what’s known as active galactic nuclei (AGN). Some of these AGNs produce massive jets, like the one observed in this research. While these objects might be named quasars, if a galaxy like this is oriented toward earth, shooting its material in our general direction, it’s known as a blazar. Blazars are some of the brightest objects in the universe.

The brightest radio emissions coming from the core of the galaxy can be seen in the bottom right of the image. This is the brightest blazar that’s ever been seen at this distance, and is the second-brightest X-ray-emitting blazar that’s been observed at this distance.

The core of the PSO J0309+27 galaxy holds a supermassive black hole, which is propelling the jet with gravitational energy.  The jet in the image is thought to extend for 1,600 light years.

This research has been reported in Astronomy & Astrophysics, and may help scientists understand why there aren’t that many blazars in the early universe.


Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Astronomy & Astrophysics
 

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAR 24, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Molecules Containing Carbon Found in Space
MAR 24, 2021
Molecules Containing Carbon Found in Space
It's thought that most carbon found in space is contained in big molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons ( ...
APR 08, 2021
Space & Astronomy
The Stardust That Made Us & Our Planet
APR 08, 2021
The Stardust That Made Us & Our Planet
You may know that the human body is made up of elements that almost all originated in stars, and many of those elements ...
APR 21, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Zooming Back From a Black Hole
APR 21, 2021
Zooming Back From a Black Hole
The first images ever taken of a black hole were released in April 2019. The images were captured with the Event Horizon ...
JUL 18, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Climate Change has Tilted the Axis of the Earth
JUL 18, 2021
Climate Change has Tilted the Axis of the Earth
The axis of the Earth intersects the planet at the magnetic pole, and Earth's poles are known to wander. They can even f ...
JUL 22, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Telescope Riding a Balloon Could Replace Hubble
JUL 22, 2021
Telescope Riding a Balloon Could Replace Hubble
The Earth's atmosphere often muffles views from ground-based telescopes when observing space. Now, a research c ...
SEP 01, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
New Study Suggests One-third of Binary Stars Have Engulfed Their Planets
SEP 01, 2021
New Study Suggests One-third of Binary Stars Have Engulfed Their Planets
While our solar system is relatively calm and inert, some sun-like stars out there will literally eat the planets in the ...
Loading Comments...