Sunday , June 20 2021

Sorry, astronomers did not find the brightest quasar in the entire universe.




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The print of this artist shows how J043947.08 + 163415.7, a very distant quasar, powered by a supermassive black hole, can be close up. This object is by far the brightest quasar ever discovered at the beginning of the Universe, but only in terms of apparent brightness.ESA / Hubble, NASA, M. Kornmesser

In astronomy, there are two types of questions to answer: easy and difficult. Easy questions involve close objects that are plentiful and easy to see; the more difficult ones involve distant objects that are rare and difficult to find. In many ways, the biggest questions involve determining what is happening at the highest cosmic extremes.

In a spectacular new discovery, astronomers announced a record breaking quasar at the beginning of the Universe: brighter than 600 trillion suns. With its light reaching us 13 billion years ago – just 800 million years after the Big Bang – its brightness indicates that it is fed by a black hole 10 billion times the mass of our Sun.

But this conclusion is totally wrong. It is a peculiarity of Einstein's relativity that deceives us and we understand exactly why.

"Standard candles" are great for inferring distances based on measured brightness, but only if you are sure of the intrinsic brightness of your candle. If you see something that seems to have a certain brightness and distance, but mistakenly identifying what happens to that light along the way, you can misjudge the candle's intrinsic brightness.NASA / JPL-Caltech

Imagine you have a bright light bulb. When you turn on the switch, it heats its filament and shines brightly, powered by a standard number: 100 watts. You can stay a certain distance from it and predict exactly how it should be displayed. And this works the same way: if you can measure its distance and how bright it appears, you can infer exactly how intrinsically light it is.

But there is a caveat in this line of thought. You have to make sure that nothing is magnifying the light you are seeing from your location in space. If you saw this lamp through a magnifying glass, you would still get the correct distance measurement, but it would measure an artificially enhanced apparent brightness. The higher the magnification power of your lens, the greater the artificial enhancement. If you tried to infer how intrinsically luminous your lamp was, you would be inclined to an incorrect answer, with larger magnifications influencing your results in larger quantities.

Gravitational lenses, magnifying and distorting a background source, allow us to see objects farther and farther away than ever before.ALMA (ESO / NRAO / NAOJ), L. Calcium (ESO), Y. Hezaveh et al.

There are no magnifying glasses that occur naturally in space, but there is the very real phenomenon of gravitational lenses. When you are looking at a distant object in the Universe, there is the very real possibility of having a large mass existing along your line of sight for whatever you are observing.

In Einstein's relativity, mass causes the space-time tissue to curve, with larger masses inducing a greater curvature. The light of a distant object passing through a severely curved space-time region will have its path distorted. If the distortion is significant enough, it can cause a variety of effects, including an elongation of the observed image, the creation of multiple images and a large magnification of the light originating from the source.

HE0435-1223, located in the center of this wide-field image, is among the five most well-known quasars to date. The foreground galaxy creates four highly symmetrical images of the distant quasar around it. Quasars are the most distant objects found in the observable universe.ESA / Hubble, NASA, Suyu et al.

When it comes to the brighter objects of the ultra-distant Universe, we do not use light bulbs. We do not even use stars, galaxies or supernovas; at such great distances, the only individual objects that can be seen in great numbers are the quasars. Soon after the Big Bang, the Universe formed stars for the first time, leading to black holes, fusions, and galaxies. As time passed, eventually the first supermassive black holes appeared in the centers of these young galaxies.

These black holes, when their host galaxies undergo large bursts of star formation, can accumulate and devour large quantities of matter. Meanwhile, black holes grow, and surrounding regions emit large amounts of electromagnetic radiation, from the radio portion of the spectrum to the X-ray. Based on the radiation we observe, we can reconstruct all kinds of properties of these quasars and the galaxies they inhabit.

This newly identified quasar is named & nbsp; J043947.08 + 163415.7, which we will call abbreviated J0439. It was discovered in a wide-area survey in 2017 and last year it received follow-up observations from Hubble. And – as you'd expect with a light bulb & nbsp; – we can measure the distance and the brightness of this object.

We can measure a lot & nbsp; high precision How distant this quasar is and get a value by applying what we know about the expanding Universe: 28.1 billion light-years away.

We can measure very precisely how bright the quasar appears collecting its light, and this gives us a direct measure of the apparent brightness.

And by joining these two figures, we obtain this figure for the intrinsic luminosity of the quasar: 600 trillion times the brightness of the Sun.

The X-ray jet farthest from the Universe, quasar GB 1428, is about the same distance and age, as seen from Earth, from the S5 0014 + 81 quasar, which houses possibly the largest known black hole in the Universe. It is believed that these distant giants are activated by fusions or other gravitational interactions that also lead to a significant increase in the rate of star formation observed in these host galaxies.X-ray: NASA / CXC / NRC / C. Cheung et al; Optics: NASA / STScI; Radio: NSF / NRAO / VLA

If that were true, this object would be by far the brightest thing we can detect at such great distances. We now know of hundreds of quasars found at equally extreme distances, ranging from brightness of a few trillion to perhaps 300 trillion times the brightness of the Sun. Therefore, this new quasar, J0439, is now more than twice as bright as the next brighter. Some even argue that it may be the brightest quasar of the early universe.

To get an idea of ​​how extreme such a quasar would be, we can infer a mass for its central black hole based on its brightness: 10 billion solar masses. We can infer a rate of formation of stars for the galaxy that houses it: 10,000 solar masses worth of new stars per year.

In comparison, our Milky Way has a supermassive black hole of only 4 million solar masses and forms less of a solar mass equivalent to new stars every year.

This multi-length view of the galactic center of the Milky Way ranges from the X-ray to the optical and infrared, showing Sagittarius A * and the intragalactic medium located about 25,000 light-years away. The black hole has a mass of approximately 4 million Suns, while the Milky Way as a whole forms less of a new star of the Sun every year. Later this year, using radio data, the EHT will solve the black hole event horizon.X-ray: NASA / CXC / UMass / D. Wang et al .; Optical: NASA / ESA / STScI / D.Wang et al; IR: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSC / S.Stolovy

There were approximately quasars that came to us from ancient times: when the Universe was less than 1.2 billion years old. No one is so bright, has such large black holes or entails such large star formation rates. If this quasar were as bright as these observations imply, it could be the most extreme object in the whole Universe.

But it's not true. The J0439 quasar is not 600 trillion times as bright as our Sun, and it's definitely not the brightest quasar in the Universe. Instead, J0439 shows the indicator signals of gravitational lenses, which may be increasing by up to 50 times.

Instead of being 600 trillion times as bright as our Sun, it could be 10 to 12 trillion times brighter, which would make it one of the weakest quasars ever detected at such a great distance.

This image shows the distant quasar J043947.08 + 163415.7 as was observed with the NASA / ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The quasar is one of the brightest objects at the beginning of the Universe. However, due to its distance, it only became visible as its image became brighter and larger by gravitational lenses.NASA, ESA, X. Fan (University of Arizona)

The lens signatures are completely unmistakable and inescapable. Multiple images were resolved in the Hubble data, since observations showed the existence of three separate images for the J0439. The existence of a foreground galaxy, offset only by the required angular difference, is also clearly visible, revealing a source for & nbsp; gravitational lens.

The best interpretation of this data is that the quasar may be sending light from 13 billion years ago, but approximately halfway between ourselves and that quasar, an interloping galaxy is curving space severely. When we reconstruct what must be present to explain these observations, we conclude that this is not the brightest quasar detected at such great distances; is the first quasar to be gravitationally captured in the most distant regions of the Universe.

An illustration of gravitational lenses shows how background galaxies – or any path of light – are distorted by the presence of an intermediate mass, but also shows how the space itself is distorted and distorted by the presence of the foreground mass itself. The magnification of such a lens may cause confusion as to the intrinsic brightness of a source if not properly explained.NASA / ESA

When we consider the effects of gravitational lenses, along with the associated curvature of space due to Einstein's relativity, this quasar becomes much more reasonable.

  • Instead of 600 trillion times brighter than our Sun, it is only ~ 12 trillion times brighter, according to other quasars.
  • Instead of a black hole that is 10 billion times as massive as our Sun, unheard of in such ancient times, it should have been only 0.8 billion times the mass of our Sun, consistent with other large supermassive black holes in those early stages .
  • And instead of a star formation rate that is tens of thousands of times larger than our galaxy, we rebuild one that is much more in line with other young quasars: a few hundred to a few thousand solar masses worth of new stars per year .

In the future, large-scale deep surveys should reveal more quasars on the fringes of powerful gravitational lenses. We must discover much more of these low-light quasars over great distances, which are below the detection limits of our current observatories without a lens enhancement. And for J0439 in particular, we hope that the subsequent observations with the ALMA reveal how quickly the material around the black hole that feeds the quasar is moving, which gives us a window of what really is its mass.

The nucleus of the galaxy NGC 4261, as the nucleus of many galaxies, shows signs of a supermassive black hole in both infrared and X-rays. When we measure the gas motion, including its velocity at a range of distances from the center, around that black hole, we can infer a fairly accurate value for the supermassive black hole in situ.NASA / Hubble and ESA

This new quasar is fascinating, but not for the reasons you may have heard. It is not the brightest object near our cosmic dawn, but one of the faintest objects discovered. It is only because of the power of gravitational lenses, a casual alignment of an intermediate galaxy, and the unique rules of Einstein's relativity that we have been able to find.

We may have found the quasar with the greatest apparent brightness in the early Universe, which is remarkable in itself. But our goal is to understand the Universe as it is, not as it seems to us. When we take this into account, this quasar is exactly in line with what we expect it to be. And this is a fascinating story in itself, with no additional sensationalism needed.

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The print of this artist shows how J043947.08 + 163415.7, a very distant quasar, powered by a supermassive black hole, can be close up. This object is by far the brightest quasar ever discovered at the beginning of the Universe, but only in terms of apparent brightness.ESA / Hubble, NASA, M. Kornmesser

In astronomy, there are two types of questions to answer: easy and difficult. Easy questions involve close objects that are plentiful and easy to see; the hard ones involve distant objects that are rare and difficult to find. In many ways, the biggest questions involve determining what is happening at the highest cosmic extremes.

In a spectacular new discovery, astronomers announced a quasar in the first universe: over 600 trillion Suns. With its light reaching us 13 billion years ago – just 800 million years after the Big Bang – its brightness indicates that it is fed by a black hole 10 billion times the mass of our Sun.

But this conclusion is totally wrong. It is a peculiarity of Einstein's relativity that deceives us and we understand exactly why.

"Standard candles" are great for inferring distances based on measured brightness, but only if you are sure of the intrinsic brightness of your candle. If you see something that seems to have a certain brightness and distance, but mistakenly identifying what happens to that light along the way, you can misjudge the candle's intrinsic brightness.NASA / JPL-Caltech

Imagine you have a bright light bulb. When you turn on the switch, it heats your filament and shines as a standard number: 100 watts. You can stay a certain distance from it and predict exactly how it should be displayed. And this works the same way: if you can measure its distance and how bright it appears, you can infer exactly how intrinsically light it is.

But there is a caveat in this line of thought. You have to make sure that nothing is magnifying the light you are seeing from your location in space. If you saw this lamp through a magnifying glass, you would still get the correct distance measure, but it would measure an artificially enhanced apparent brightness. The higher the magnification power of your lens, the greater the artificial enhancement. If you tried to infer how intrinsically luminous your lamp was, you would be inclined to an incorrect answer, with larger magnifications influencing your results in larger quantities.

Gravitational lenses, magnifying and distorting a background source, allow us to see objects farther and farther away than ever before.ALMA (ESO / NRAO / NAOJ), L. Calçada (ESO), Y. Hezaveh et al.

There are no magnifying glasses that occur naturally in space, but there is the very real phenomenon of gravitational lenses. When you are looking at a distant object in the Universe, there is the very real possibility of having a large mass along your line of sight to what you are observing.

In Einstein's relativity, mass causes the space-time tissue to curve, with larger masses inducing a greater curvature. The light of a distant object passing through a severely curved space-time region will have its path distorted. If the distortion is significant enough, it can cause a variety of effects, including an elongation of the observed image, the creation of multiple images and a large magnification of the light originating from the source.

HE0435-1223, located in the center of this wide-field image, is among the five most well-known quasars to date. The foreground galaxy creates four highly symmetrical images of the distant quasar around it. Quasars are the most distant objects found in the observable universe.ESA / Hubble, NASA, Suyu et al.

When it comes to the brighter objects of the ultra-distant Universe, we do not use light bulbs. We do not even use stars, galaxies or supernovas; at such great distances, the only individual objects that can be seen in great numbers are the quasars. Soon after the Big Bang, the Universe formed stars for the first time, leading to black holes, fusions, and galaxies. Over time, eventually the first supermassive black holes appeared in the centers of these young galaxies.

These black holes, when their host galaxies undergo large bursts of star formation, can accumulate and devour large quantities of matter. Meanwhile, black holes grow, and surrounding regions emit large amounts of electromagnetic radiation, from the radio portion of the spectrum to the X-ray. Based on the radiation we observe, we can reconstruct all kinds of properties of these quasars and the galaxies they inhabit.

This newly identified quasar is named J043947.08 + 163415.7, which will be called J0439. It was discovered in a wide-area survey in 2017 and last year it received follow-up observations from Hubble. And – as you would expect with a light bulb – we were able to measure the distance and the brightness of that object.

We can measure very accurately how far this quasar is, and get a value by applying what we know about the expanding Universe: 28.1 billion light-years away.

We can measure very precisely how bright the quasar appears collecting its light, and this gives us a direct measure of the apparent brightness.

And by joining these two figures, we obtain this figure for the intrinsic luminosity of the quasar: 600 trillion times the brightness of the Sun.

The X-ray jet farthest from the Universe, quasar GB 1428, is about the same distance and age, as seen from Earth, from the S5 0014 + 81 quasar, which houses possibly the largest known black hole in the Universe. It is believed that these distant giants are activated by fusions or other gravitational interactions that also lead to a significant increase in the rate of star formation observed in these host galaxies.X-ray: NASA / CXC / NRC / C. Cheung et al; Optics: NASA / STScI; Radio: NSF / NRAO / VLA

If that were true, this object would be by far the brightest thing we can detect at such great distances. We now know of hundreds of quasars found at equally extreme distances, ranging from brightness of a few trillion to perhaps 300 trillion times the brightness of the Sun. Therefore, this new quasar, J0439, is now more than twice as bright as near brilliant. Some even argue that it may be the brightest quasar of the early universe.

To get an idea of ​​how extreme such a quasar would be, we can infer a mass for its central black hole based on its brightness: 10 billion solar masses. We can infer a rate of formation of stars for the galaxy that houses it: 10,000 solar masses worth of new stars per year.

In comparison, our Milky Way has a supermassive black hole of only 4 million solar masses and forms less of a solar mass equivalent to new stars every year.

This multi-length view of the galactic center of the Milky Way ranges from the X-ray to the optical and infrared, showing Sagittarius A * and the intragalactic medium located about 25,000 light-years away. The black hole has a mass of approximately 4 million Suns, while the Milky Way as a whole forms less of a new star of the Sun every year. Later this year, using radio data, the EHT will solve the black hole event horizon.X-ray: NASA / CXC / UMass / D. Wang et al .; Optical: NASA / ESA / STScI / D.Wang et al; IR: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSC / S.Stolovy

There were approximately quasars that came to us from ancient times: when the Universe was less than 1.2 billion years old. No one is so bright, has such large black holes or entails such large star formation rates. If this quasar were as bright as these observations imply, it could very well be the most extreme object in the whole Universe.

But it's not true. The J0439 quasar is not 600 trillion times as bright as our Sun, and it's definitely not the brightest quasar in the Universe. Instead, J0439 shows the indicator signals of gravitational lenses, which may be increasing by up to 50 times.

Instead of being 600 trillion times as bright as our Sun, it could be 10 to 12 trillion times brighter, which would make it one of the weakest quasars ever detected at such a great distance.

This image shows the distant quasar J043947.08 + 163415.7 as was observed with the NASA / ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The quasar is one of the brightest objects at the beginning of the Universe. However, due to its distance, it only became visible as its image became brighter and larger by gravitational lenses.NASA, ESA, X. Fan (University of Arizona)

The lens signatures are completely unmistakable and inescapable. Multiple images were resolved in the Hubble data, as observations showed the existence of three separate images for J0439. The existence of a galaxy in the foreground, offset only by the necessary angular difference, is also clearly visible, revealing a source of gravitational lenses.

The best interpretation of this data is that the quasar may be sending light from 13 billion years ago, but approximately halfway between ourselves and that quasar, an interloping galaxy is curving space severely. When we reconstruct what must be present to explain these observations, we conclude that this is not the brightest quasar detected at such great distances; is the first quasar to be gravitationally captured in the confines of the Universe.

An illustration of gravitational lenses shows how background galaxies – or any path of light – are distorted by the presence of an intermediate mass, but also shows how the space itself is distorted and distorted by the presence of the foreground mass itself. The magnification of such a lens may cause confusion as to the intrinsic brightness of a source if not properly explained.NASA / ESA

When we consider the effects of gravitational lenses, along with the associated curvature of space due to Einstein's relativity, this quasar becomes much more reasonable.

  • Instead of 600 trillion times brighter than our Sun, it is only ~ 12 trillion times brighter, according to other quasars.
  • Instead of a black hole that is 10 billion times as massive as our Sun, unheard of in such ancient times, it should have been only 0.8 billion times the mass of our Sun, consistent with other large supermassive black holes in those early stages .
  • And instead of a star formation rate that is tens of thousands of times larger than our own galaxy, we rebuild one that is much more in line with other young quasars: a few hundred to a few thousand solar masses worth of new stars by year.

In the future, large-scale deep surveys should reveal more quasars on the fringes of powerful gravitational lenses. We must discover much more of these low-light quasars over great distances, which are below the detection limits of our current observatories without a lens enhancement. And for J0439 in particular, we hope that the subsequent observations with the ALMA reveal how quickly the material around the black hole that feeds the quasar is moving, giving us a window of what really is its mass.

The nucleus of the galaxy NGC 4261, as the nucleus of many galaxies, shows signs of a supermassive black hole in both infrared and X-rays. When we measure the gas motion, including its velocity at a range of distances from the center, around that black hole, we can infer a fairly accurate value for the supermassive black hole in situ.NASA / Hubble and ESA

This new quasar is fascinating, but not for the reasons you may have heard. It is not the brightest object near our cosmic dawn, but one of the faintest objects discovered. It is only because of the power of gravitational lenses, a casual alignment of an intermediate galaxy, and the unique rules of Einstein's relativity that we have been able to find.

We may have found the quasar with the greatest apparent brightness in the early Universe, which is remarkable in itself. But our goal is to understand the Universe as it is, not as it seems to us. When we take this into account, this quasar is exactly in line with what we expect it to be. And this is a fascinating story in itself, with no additional sensationalism needed.


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