Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brightest Object In Universe Observed By University Of Washington Astronomer

Date:
June 16, 1998
Source:
University Of Washington
Summary:
The quasar (or quasi-stellar object) is 4 million-billion to 5 million-billion times brighter than the Sun. It is estimated to be more than 10 times brighter than any other quasar, and outshines the brightest galaxy by more than 100 times.

The quasar (or quasi-stellar object) is 4 million-billion to 5 million-billion times brighter than the Sun. It is estimated to be more than 10 times brighter than any other quasar, and outshines the brightest galaxy by more than 100 times.

The research is described in the June 11 edition of the British journal Nature, and the findings have been accepted for publication in Astrophysical Journal.

Geraint Lewis, a postdoctoral researcher at the UW, along with his collaborators, made the discovery in observations taken with the 2.5-meter Isaac Newton Telescope at La Palma in the Canary Islands, and also on the 1-meter Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope at La Palma. Lewis' colleagues include Michael Irwin of the Royal Greenwich Observatory, Rodrigo Ibata of the European Southern Observatory in Munich, and Edward Totten of Queens University, Belfast.

The object is scheduled for observation by the Hubble Space Telescope in the near future. Its brightness actually comes from two different sources. Light in the ultraviolet and optical range comes from what is known as an accretion disk surrounding a supermassive black hole. A supermassive black hole has millions of times the mass of the Sun. Matter from stars and other objects attracted by the black hole's gravity generates energy (including light) from friction as it is torn apart and falls toward the black hole.

The second source of brightness, in the infrared portion of the spectrum, comes from thick dust heated by radiation from the center of the quasar. "In most of these ultraluminous galaxies, dust is the source of most of the energy," Lewis says. "But in this quasar, about half comes from the accretion disk."

Quasars are some of the most energetic objects observed in the universe. Each quasar generates more energy than the rest of a galaxy's stars combined. Yet a quasar, the black hole and its surrounding accretion disk occupy a relatively small amount of space, galactically speaking - not much larger than our solar system.

The quasar observation occurred by accident. The team was studying the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy's interaction with our own. They were observing stars in the halo of our galaxy when this very bright object showed up in one observation.

"It was actually a serendipitous discovery, as the best discoveries often are," Lewis said.

The quasar is estimated to be 11 billion light years from Earth. Light being received now on Earth emanated from the quasar when the universe was only about 10 percent of its present age.

Finding an object of this energy level could help scientists understand more about what fuels quasars. Lewis and his colleagues are trying to gather more data, including high-resolution images, to develop an understanding of the complete spectrum of energy from this object.

"Then we can apply physics to the various components, which should tell us more about what's happening in the quasar," he said. Ultimately, information like this helps astronomers develop a more accurate picture of the universe's origins and its structure.

Further study could show that the apparent energy level of the quasar is being magnified by a gravitational lens. Gravitational lenses are often seen to be the cause of extremely bright objects. Typically, such a lens might exaggerate the real energy level by a factor of 30 or 40 - but even taking that into account, this galaxy would outshine our own by more than 1,000 times.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Washington. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Washington. "Brightest Object In Universe Observed By University Of Washington Astronomer." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 June 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/06/980616064401.htm>.
University Of Washington. (1998, June 16). Brightest Object In Universe Observed By University Of Washington Astronomer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/06/980616064401.htm
University Of Washington. "Brightest Object In Universe Observed By University Of Washington Astronomer." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/06/980616064401.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

AFP (July 30, 2014) The European Space Agency's fifth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) is takes off to the International Space Station on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana. Duration: 00:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

AP (July 30, 2014) Arianespace launched a rocket Tuesday from French Guiana carrying a robotic cargo ship to deliver provisions to the International Space Station. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

AP (July 30, 2014) Every summer, tourists make the pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island, Va. to see wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel. But, it's the rockets sending to supplies to the International Space Station that are making this a year-round destination. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins