Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Quasar Discovered Has 100 Times More Power Than Milky Way Galaxy

Astronomers have reported in The Astrophysical Journal that they have found a quasar with the most energetic outflow ever seen.

The quasar, SDSS J1106+1939, is at least five times more powerful than any that have been observed to date. Quasars are bright galactic centers powered by supermassive black holes. These cosmic objects outflows have never been observed as powerful as theorists have predicted, until now.

The new study looked at SDSS J1106+1939 in great detail by using the X-shooter instrument on the European Space Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.

“We have discovered the most energetic quasar outflow known to date,” said team leader Nahum Arav of Virginia Tech. “The rate that energy is carried away by this huge mass of material ejected at high speed from SDSS J1106+1939 is at least equivalent to two million million times the power output of the Sun.”

He said the quasar is about 100 times higher than the total power output of the Milky Way galaxy.

“This is the first time that a quasar outflow has been measured to have the sort of very high energies that are predicted by theory,” Arav said.

ESO said many theoretical simulations suggest the impact of these outflows on the galaxies around them may resolve several enigmas, including how the mass of a galaxy is linked to its central black hole mass, and why there are so few large galaxies in the Universe.

The newly discovered outflow lies about a thousand light-years away from the supermassive black hole at the heart of the quasar.

The outflow seen in SDSS J1106+1939 is at least five times more powerful than the previous record holder. The team’s analysis shows that a mass of about 400 times that of the Sun is streaming away from this quasar per year.

“We couldn’t have got the high-quality data to make this discovery without the VLT’s X-shooter spectrograph,” said Benoit Borguet, lead author of the new paper. “We were able to explore the region around the quasar in great detail for the first time.”

The team also discovered one other quasar and found that both it and SDSS J1106+1939 have powerful outflows. The results should be widely applicable of luminous quasars across the Universe.

“I’ve been looking for something like this for a decade,” Nahum Arav said, “so it’s thrilling to finally find one of the monster outflows that have been predicted!”

The astronomers found both SDSS J1106+1939 and J1512+1119 in April 2011 and March 2012 by splitting up the light into its component colors and studying in detail the resultant spectrum. Source 

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