Two pairs of quasars in the early universe

Quasars are loners. This is not because they do not get along with their colleagues, but has something to do with their nature. They are nuclei of active galaxies. And every galaxy has only one nucleus. Billions of stars can rotate badly around several cores. Nevertheless, astronomers have now found two quasar pairs at a distance of about ten billion light years as they report in Nature Astronomy.

How is that possible? The researchers have only one explanation for it: It concerns in each case two galaxies merging with one another. Their nuclei will eventually unite to form a single, much larger one. Thereby it will come to the ejection of violent gravitational waves. In fact, this has already happened. In both cases, the two quasars are “only” 10,000 light-years apart. That’s about half as far as from the sun to the nucleus of the Milky Way (which isn’t a quasar, but will be developed into a quasar in “The Death of the Universe“). It is also closer than any other known pair of quasars.

Since we observe the two quasars in a state as it was 10 billion years ago, it has long since come to the great union. But unfortunately it will take a few million years until we can watch it.

Astronomers have discovered two pairs of quasars in the distant Universe, about 10 billion light-years from Earth. In each pair, the two quasars are separated by only about 10,000 light-years, making them closer together than any other double quasars found so far away. The proximity of the quasars in each pair suggests that they are located within two merging galaxies. Quasars are the intensely bright cores of distant galaxies, powered by the feeding frenzies of supermassive black holes. One of the distant double quasars is depicted in this illustration. Labels point out the location of the quasars, the accretion disks (rings of material feeding each black hole), and the quasar host galaxies, which are in the process of merging. (Credit: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva)

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  • BrandonQMorris
  • Brandon Q. Morris is a physicist and space specialist. He has long been concerned with space issues, both professionally and privately and while he wanted to become an astronaut, he had to stay on Earth for a variety of reasons. He is particularly fascinated by the “what if” and through his books he aims to share compelling hard science fiction stories that could actually happen, and someday may happen. Morris is the author of several best-selling science fiction novels, including The Enceladus Series.

    Brandon is a proud member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and of the Mars Society.