NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope sent back to Earth some more breath taking images, for the eyes of scientists and amateurs alike. This time, the telescope captioned the ‘ghosts’ of eight quasars tens of thousands of light-years away whose light faded a long time ago. The photographs also revealed the existence of a supermassive black hole “powering” the luminous formations.
Hubble photographed the images of eight emerald-green gas-cloud structures illuminated by the powerful radiation that could have only been coming from a quasar – the brightest known object in the universe. According to the scientists who studied the images, this suggests that there was a quasar blasting each the gas clouds with massive jets of energy in the past, but they have long faded since.
“Quasars are not bright enough now to account for what we’re seeing; this is a record of something that happened in the past,” Dr. Bill Keel with the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, concluded.
Hubble actually took photos of a series of normally invisible space objects. But they became radiating a beautiful, emerald shade of green after falling under powerful pulses of radiation emanating from the quasar. “In each of these eight images, a quasar beam has caused once-invisible filaments in deep space to glow through a process called photoionization,” European Space Agency officials explained. The ESA and NASA are equal partners supervising the Hubble project.
Photoionization, the process ESA is talking about, happens when various atoms – like oxygen, sulphur, helium, nitrogen or neon – begin to re-emit the light they absorbed from the pulsating quasar. According to the scientists, the stunning green light Hubble captured in these recent photos represents ionized particles of oxygen, which tend to glow in an eye-catching emerald light.
However, researchers also concluded that the quasars lighting up the eight gas formation are long dead. They came to this conclusion after measuring the relative position of the clouds within their host galaxies. Their estimations suggest the gas clouds are too far off the center, and it must have taken several thousands of years before the radiation from the quasar reached them. So the quasars are no longer there, they think.
Two galaxies clashed with each other to create a supermassive black hole
Besides some breath taking images, the Hubble telescope also offered valuable scientific insight to researchers. Two of the emerald gas formations intrigued Dr. Keel the most, who wrote a paper about them. The two looping, cloudy objects could only be the result of the merging a two galaxies. The scientist thinks there is a high possibility that the clash of these galaxies actually gave birth to a supermassive black hole.
It is only around these supermassive black holes where quasars – immense luminous galactic cores – can be formed. Each of the eight faded quasars used to orbit their host galaxies, bearing names like NGC 5972, Mrk 1498, or the Teacup (also known as 2MASX J14302986+1339117).
As the black hole absorbs all galactic material found within its reach – propelling it a very high speed towards its accretion disk – gas and dust heat up reaching incredibly high temperatures. This phenomenon results in the formation of the brilliant objects named quasars, blasting high-energy radiation all around the black hole’s disk.
In regard to the gas conglomerates themselves, ESA officials believe they were also formed as a result of violent galactic mergers. “Galactic mergers do not just alter the forms of the previously serene galaxies involved; they also trigger extreme cosmic phenomena,” the ESA press release stated. European scientists agree with University of Alabama’s Dr. Keel, saying a similar galactic merger could have also led to the formation of the quasars.
The space agency is eager to reward people who beat Hubble and first saw the illuminated gas formation. For example, one glowing green space was named “Hanny’s Voorwerp” (the Dutch word for ‘object’) honoring schoolteacher and amateur astronomer Hanny van Arkel who first spotted the emerald gas cloud in 2007.
Image Source: Fox News
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