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.

Related Articles


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 March 27, 2015 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 March 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Friday, March 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Why So Many People Think NASA's Asteroid Mission Is A Waste

Why So Many People Think NASA's Asteroid Mission Is A Waste

Newsy (Mar. 27, 2015) The Asteroid Retrieval Mission announced this week bears little resemblance to its grand beginnings. Even NASA scientists are asking, "Why bother?" Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robot Returns from International Space Station and Sets Two Guinness World Records

Robot Returns from International Space Station and Sets Two Guinness World Records

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Mar. 27, 2015) The companion robot "Kirobo" returns to earth from the International Space Station and sets two Guinness World Records. Sharon Reich reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Supermassive Blackhole Detector Ready for Business

Supermassive Blackhole Detector Ready for Business

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) Construction of the world&apos;s largest and most powerful observatory designed to detect and analyze gamma rays has been completed in Mexico. Gamma ray particles are considered the most energetic in the universe and scientists hope to use the observatory to learn more about the supernovas and black holes that produce them. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rocket Blasts Off Carrying U.S. Air Force GPS Satellite

Rocket Blasts Off Carrying U.S. Air Force GPS Satellite

Reuters - News Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) A U.S. Air Force GPS IIF-9 satellite launches aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket into semi-synchronous orbit. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

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