MAR 08, 2021 6:13 PM PST

Newly observed quasar jet sheds light on early galaxy formation

New observations from the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) and Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) report documenting the farthest cosmic jet ever discovered. The jet – observed in a quasar 13 billion light-years from Earth – is the first to be found at such a distance and with such a strong radio emission. The findings are published in the Astrophysical Journal and the Astronomical Journal.

Quasars are tremendously luminous active galactic nuclei that harbor supermassive black holes, often much, much more massive than the sun, which are then encircled by gases. Few quasars have been documented with having cosmic jets like the one recently observed.

Why, you may be asking, should we be interested in these far-off galactic entities? The astronomers who observed the cosmic jet say that its particles appear to be only approximately 1,000 years old and that because of the quasar’s distance, we are seeing it as it was when the universe was a mere 780 million years old (a spring chicken, in universe-age!). This means that we can use these observations to garner key data about how galaxies and supermassive black holes evolved in the early universe.

"The black holes at the cores of many of these very distant quasars are so massive that they challenge our understanding of how they could have grown in the relatively short time available to them that early in the universe's history. One possibility is that jets provided a mechanism that allowed the black holes to grow more quickly. Finding a jet in a quasar at this epoch is an exciting clue about this question," noted Emmanuel Momjian, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).

P172+18, as the object is called, was first seen in 2015 in observations from the Pan-STARRS sky survey using a visible-light telescope in Hawaii. Later, through infrared observations and the NRAO's FIRST survey, the team observed a radio-emitting object at the same position, which they determined were within the same object. This triangulation was key to understanding the significance of the jet’s location.

"Jets have a role in regulating star formation and the growth of their host galaxies, so this discovery is valuable to understanding these processes in the early universe," says NRAO’s Chris Carilli. "The jets at that time also propelled atoms and magnetic fields into what had been pristine space between the galaxies," he concludes.

Sources: NRAO, Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
JUL 29, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Neuston: The Understudied Secret of the Ocean's Surface
JUL 29, 2021
Neuston: The Understudied Secret of the Ocean's Surface
Sitting just below our ocean’s surface is a host of often overlooked organisms; ones who help connect our world&rs ...
AUG 09, 2021
Earth & The Environment
New Pterosaur Fossil discovered in Australia
AUG 09, 2021
New Pterosaur Fossil discovered in Australia
Pterosaur fossils have been discovered in all corners of the globe since their first discovery in Kansas in the 1700s. S ...
AUG 19, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Researchers Observe the Birth of New Solar Systems
AUG 19, 2021
Researchers Observe the Birth of New Solar Systems
Astronomers are gaining new insights on how our solar system was born from observations of a nearby star-forming region ...
AUG 24, 2021
Health & Medicine
Consciousness is so dop(amine)! Researchers show dopamine plays a key role in consciousness
AUG 24, 2021
Consciousness is so dop(amine)! Researchers show dopamine plays a key role in consciousness
Consciousness is complex, but researchers have found a key element: dopamine
SEP 09, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
DNA in the Nucleus Observed In a Surprising Formation
SEP 09, 2021
DNA in the Nucleus Observed In a Surprising Formation
In diagrams of cells, DNA is usually shown as a mass in the cell's nucleus, like a bowl of ramen noodles. But researcher ...
OCT 16, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Microtubules Found to Act as Mechanosensors
OCT 16, 2021
Microtubules Found to Act as Mechanosensors
As organisms grow, live, and move through the world, they're subjected to an array of internal and external forces. Biol ...
Loading Comments...