These four quasars could be hiding a massive black hole

Astronomers have discovered four quasars shining extremely close to each other for the first time ever.
By Tyler Henderson | May 15, 2015
The more we learn, the less we know. Astronomers have identified a quartet of quasars in a distant cloud of cold gas, the first time four of the formations have been observed so close to each other. Joseph Hennawi located the quasars at the Max Planck Institute in Germany.

A quasar is a rare object categorized as an active galactic nucleus, and is highly energetic. They emit electromagnetic energy, which includes radio waves and visible light, but can only be detected for a small window of time. It is formed when a black hole at the center of a galaxy's gravity become so strong that it begins to swallow everything up. Not even light can escape a black hole's pull, but the forces acting on matter before entering the black hole release great amounts of energy. This release is known as a quasi-stellar, hence the name.

Quasars are usually separated by millions of light years. There are close to 100 known quasar pairs, and only two known triplets. The newly discovered foursome are only 650,000 light years apart from each other, which is only a quarter of the distance between the Milky Way and our next closest galaxy, Andromeda.

According to Hennawi, the odds of this discovery being an accident are extremely low, suggesting that this phenomenon was caused by some sort of environmental factor. He noted that the four quasars were embedded in a dense cloud of cold hydrogen gas, located in a massive proto-cluster of galaxies. There is a fuel source and an active stellar environment, and it likely has something to do with the unseen quasar activity.

The discovery offers new insight into how galaxies formed almost 10 billion years ago, and was published this week in Science.


We are dedicated to maintaining a respectful community that actively engages in lively discussions about news stories and blog posts. Please keep the following in mind when writing your comments.