Bright quasar gives glimpse into young universe

A newly discovered ultra-bright quasar could provide rare insight into the first billion years of the universe's existence.
By Joseph Scalise | Nov 26, 2018
A team of international researchers have found that a quasar with the brightest radio emission ever observed could help scientists get a better idea of how the universe first came to be, according to a new paper published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Quasars are made up of up gigantic black holes that accrete matter at the center of massive galaxies. The newly discovered one -- known as PSO J352.4034-15.3373 -- is unique because it both takes in substances and emits a jet of plasma out at rates near the speed of light.

That speed makes the emissions incredibly bright. So bright, that they are most illustrious ever recorded.

Not only that, but the emission sped through the universe for the last 13 billion years to reach Earth. As a result, the quasar is the first known evidence of radio jets that originated during the first billion years of the universe's existence.

"There is a dearth of known strong radio emitters from the universe's youth and this is the brightest radio quasar at that epoch by an order of magnitude," said lead author Eduardo Baados, a researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science, according to Science Daily.

The universe first began when the Big Bang jump started a mess of particles and enabled them to rapidly expand. From there, it cooled and formed a neutral hydrogen gas that left the universe dark with no outside light sources until gravity condensed it into the first stars and galaxies some 800 million years ago.

It is incredibly rare to detect a radio jet-emitting quasar from that period, which is why thenewly discovered body could provide valuable information on that period of time. The team plans to follow up their research to see what else it can tell them about eons long past.

"The jet from this quasar could serve as an important calibration tool to help future projects penetrate the dark ages and perhaps reveal how the earliest galaxies came into being," added Baados.

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