NASA, ESA, and W. Keel (University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa)
The Hubble telescope discovered some mysterious objects near dead quasars.
The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center revealed new images taken by the Hubble space telescope. The goblin-green glowing objects are the ephemeral ghosts of quasars that flickered to life and then faded. The glowing structures have looping, helical, and braided shapes.
“They don’t fit a single pattern,” said Bill Keel of the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, who initiated the Hubble survey. Mr. Keel believes the features offer insights into the puzzling behavior of galaxies with energetic cores.
The ethereal wisps outside the host galaxy are believed to have been illuminated by powerful ultraviolet radiation from a supermassive black hole at the core of the host galaxy. The most active of these galaxy cores are called quasars, where in-falling material is heated to a point where a brilliant searchlight shines into deep space. The beam is produced by a disk of glowing, superheated gas encircling the black hole.
“However, the quasars are not bright enough now to account for what we’re seeing; this is a record of something that happened in the past,” Keel said. “The glowing filaments are telling us that the quasars were once emitting more energy, or they are changing very rapidly, which they were not supposed to do.”
Bill Keel said that one possible explanation is that pairs of co-orbiting black holes are powering the quasars, and this could change their brightness, like using the dimmer switch on a chandelier.
More details on this new Hubble discovery can be found on NASA.
The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington.
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