What is a quasar?

An article written by: Lee Sonogan


Space stuff is awesome. A quasar is an active galactic nucleus of very high luminosity. They shine so brightly that eclipse the ancient planets that contain them, quasars are distant objects powered by black holes a billion times as massive as our sun. Quasars are the brightest known object in the observable universe. Still strong gravity blocks our signals of seeing them when we want. But then, It can help us understand the formation of galaxy better. And when new galaxy clusters are forming. Some quasars grow in doubles or even triplets.

Quasars live only in galaxies with supermassive black holes. Black holes that contain billions of times the mass of the sun. Although light cannot escape from the black hole itself, some signals can break free around its edges. While some dust and gas fall into the black hole, other particles are accelerated away from it at near the speed of light. Quasars are drifting away from us at the speed of at least 93,200 miles per second. Some quasars move at 93% of the speed of light.

Black holes are the blackest things in the universe. Because of their enormous, space vacuuming gravity, everything that falls into them is instantly ripped apart and lost. The most luminous and powerful ones will gobble up to a 1,000 stars worth of matter in just about a year. Black holes were first predicted by Albert Einstein and the term “black hole” was created in 1967 by an astronomer named John Wheeler.

In the current times many galaxies have exhausted their gas, and the expansion of the universe means that mergers are infrequent. Their spatial density is so low that we do not have one in our close vicinity.  Exactly how a quasar is formed is still a matter of debate and extensive research but the best guess that the scientists give is that the supermassive black hole starts consuming mass from the accretion disc, which heats up the matter falling into the black hole. The temperature can rise up to millions of degrees and the matter starts emitting light, x-rays, radio waves and other forms of radiation.

Even though quasars live outside galaxys in formation. They also live on the edges of our universe. Space is always expanding while most areas outside the universe are empty and are contained in powerful gravity fields of blackness. No current technology on Earth can see light past it. Not even a quasar light. Maybe there is more universes out there and we do not even know about it yet. Perhaps there is something more out there more interesting than quasars making new galaxys and black holes.

According to current cosmological models, the universe is infinite and expanding. To go by the likes of recent discoveries like quasars, it has just begun to unravel its magnificence and more interesting revelations that may lay in store for us in the future. Blazars and active galactic nuclei remain intense subjects of research all over the world, as superior telescopes like the Chandra X-ray observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope are discovering newer objects at the very edge of the known universe.

Quasars eventually die. This happens when the supermassive black hole consumes all the matter of the accretion disc and there is nothing left for it to feed on. From their source of energy being the gravitational action of supermassive black holes, to their phenomenal energy output over various electromagnetic wavelengths, every single fact about these objects is worth remembering about space to say the least.

“Every known quasar reveals these hydrogen features, so we conclude that the hydrogen clouds are everywhere in the universe.”Neil deGrasse Tyson (Astrophysics for People in a Hurry)

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