Measuring the black hole environment of a quasar nucleus

Oct 22, 2012
Measuring the Black Hole Environment of a Quasar Nucleus
An optical image of a quasar, the bright core of an active galaxy, seen here at the tip of the arrow. New results using submillimeter wavelength techniques have been able to resolve detailed structures only about a half a light-year in size in a quasar about a billion light-years distant. Credit: WIYN Telescope

(Phys.org)—Quasars are among the most powerful energy sources known—some are as luminous as one hundred thousand Milky Way galaxies. Astronomers know that quasars have massive black holes at their cores and believe that matter falling in to the environment of the black hole powers the quasar's tremendous luminosity—but the details remain uncertain. No one is quite sure, for example, how quasars form, how they develop into such luminous monsters, or how their massive black holes and environments become so bright.

Despite their reputation for being pitiless devourers of matter and radiation, have environments that are often sources of powerful radiation as material falls into the region. Quasar nuclei, however, are often embedded in obscuring dust (perhaps a remnant of the violent process that formed the black holes), and although the regions emit from X-rays to long wavelength radio bands, it is difficult to study them at the shorter wavelengths which are more effectively blocked.

CfA astronomers Jonathan Weintroub, Jim Moran, Rurik Primiani, and Ken Young teamed up with colleagues to make the first detailed measurements of the inner region of a quasar nucleus at submillimeter wavelengths. They used Sub-millimeter with four submillimeter telescopes working simultaneously around the globe, united into an effective single large array, and they used it to study a quasar about one billion light-years distant.

The quasar itself was known to have strongly variable emission, indicative of periods of infalling material powering the activity, but until now it had not been possible to probe the spatial structures in the region. Using their new techniques, the scientists were able to resolve dimensions of only about half a light-year (!), enough to conclude that there is a jet of material being ejected form the region of the black hole (confirming earlier conclusions), that the jet is oriented about 53 degrees from the nucleus disk, and that it contains a bend in its length whose cause needs further research. The new results are significant not only because they probe this extreme galaxy, but also because they demonstrate the success and power of the new technique of combining multiple submillimeter telescopes into a single advanced instrument.

Explore further: Spitzer telescope witnesses asteroid smashup

Related Stories

The origins of a torus in a galactic nucleus

Mar 13, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Quasars are among the most energetic objects in the universe, with some of them as luminous as ten thousand Milky Way galaxies. Quasars are thought to have massive black holes at their cores, ...

X-ray quasars, and a distance record

Apr 30, 2012

Quasars are thought to be galaxies whose bright nuclei contain massive black holes around which disks are actively accreting matter. The accretion process releases vast amounts of energy, often including a ...

Black hole jets

Jan 16, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Black holes are irresistible sinks for matter and energy. They are so dense that not even light can escape from their gravitational clutches. Massive black holes (equal to millions or even ...

Quasar Dust in the Early Universe

Mar 26, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Quasars are galaxies whose very bright cores are thought to contain massive black holes around which disks are actively accreting matter.

The Milky Way's supermassive black hole

Aug 08, 2011

Supermassive black holes - objects with masses of millions or even billions of suns - are found at the nuclei of galaxies. Our Milky Way galaxy, for example, has a massive black hole at its core, albeit one ...

Most quasars live on snacks, not large meals

Jun 20, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Black holes in the early universe needed a few snacks rather than one giant meal to fuel their quasars and help them grow, according to observations from NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes.

Recommended for you

Spitzer telescope witnesses asteroid smashup

10 hours ago

(Phys.org) —NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted an eruption of dust around a young star, possibly the result of a smashup between large asteroids. This type of collision can eventually lead to the ...

Witnessing the early growth of a giant

Aug 27, 2014

Astronomers have uncovered for the first time the earliest stages of a massive galaxy forming in the young Universe. The discovery was made possible through combining observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble ...

User comments : 14

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Tuxford
1 / 5 (10) Oct 22, 2012
Contrarily, LaViolette's model predicts periodic matter ejections, including cosmic ray superwaves, from the cores of all galaxies. The more massive ones are naturally more active. The bend in the jet may likely originate from precession of the core. This precession may explain the pinwheel structure of many intermediate-size spiral galaxies.
TopherTO
4.3 / 5 (6) Oct 22, 2012
Why are all the same posts being included in articles from the last few days??
Okay we get it, you think something different than the authors. Stop plastering the site with the same rhetoric over and over.
Tuxford
1 / 5 (9) Oct 22, 2012
Where is the harm in pointing out how a news item supports a theory. Each news item is different, although it's application not necessarily. The theory is the same. Perhaps you are confused. If the shoe fits.... Don't like it, don't read. Ignorance is bliss.....night, night...
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (4) Oct 22, 2012
LaViolette's model predicts periodic matter ejections, including cosmic ray superwaves
I'd rather say, it postulates it. I know LaViolette's thesis and model, but it would be more interesting, if it would lead into some testable predictions and explanation of why such periodic events should happen. At the case of large quasars this hypothesis is redundant if not of-topic, because we already know, these objects do eject huge amount of matter through their polar jet continuously. The periodic explosions are rather matter of later stages of galactic evolution.
barakn
4.6 / 5 (9) Oct 23, 2012
Contrarily, LaViolette's model predicts periodic matter ejections, including cosmic ray superwaves, from the cores of all galaxies. The more massive ones are naturally more active.

Since LaViolette's model breaks the law of conservation of energy/mass, it also predicts the spontaneous creation of elves, Easter rabbits, unicorns, vampires, the Loch Ness monster, heffalumps, and woozles. The trolls are already here.
Tuxford
1 / 5 (9) Oct 23, 2012
It does not break any law, unless your view is limited, or your mental capacity retarded. You must live in Texas! It's the Law!
Fleetfoot
5 / 5 (5) Oct 24, 2012
Why are all the same posts being included in articles from the last few days??


Because the posters are cranks trying to flog dead horses and their only hope is to flood the group with their pseudo-science in the hope that casual, uninformed readers can be fooled into thinking there is some credibility in it.
barakn
5 / 5 (1) Oct 24, 2012
So, Tuxford, you're now going to deny that LaViolette's model predicts the spontaneous creation of matter from galaxy cores?
Tuxford
1 / 5 (6) Oct 24, 2012
So, Tuxford, you're now going to deny that LaViolette's model predicts the spontaneous creation of matter from galaxy cores?


Huh? Clearly you guys can't think either. I believe you all need to study feedback control systems in EE, or you will never get it. It feels like trying to teach a monkey math. Have you ever closed a servo feedback loop? I know this, since I have had to explain (unsuccessfully) these concepts to many technical people in my career, who should know better. They just don't get it. Join the club!
barakn
5 / 5 (4) Oct 24, 2012
Fine. Don't answer the question. We're pretty used to you weaseling out. We'll just use your own words: "More good news! LaViolotte's growth model holds here too. The core is growing the galaxy, rather than the reverse." http://phys.org/n...ole.html
So yes, LaViolette's model breaks the law of conservation of energy/mass. Thanks for trying to pretend it didn't.
Tuxford
1 / 5 (6) Oct 24, 2012
Bark'n, Do you live in Texas? Follow the law? Fine. The law is not broken, but your limited imagination is!

Energy transfer occurs through what could be called, the transmutation dimension, for those string theorists out there. It is simply a dimension existing within the same space of our three dimensional universe that is simply too small to be detectable by our relatively very large sub-atomic particles. The energy simply is hidden, not destroyed. That energy (and new matter) simply escapes into our detectable universe under the extreme conditions of the galactic core star. Simple really. That is the theory.

Think about it. If the reactive objects are smaller than our smallest detectable object within our universe, they will never be detected, by definition. That in no way means they do not exist. But the physics community would tell you so, while they spend billions trying to detect the god particle.

Their propagation reaction rate, forming particles, etc., is c .
barakn
5 / 5 (1) Oct 26, 2012
That energy (and new matter) simply escapes into our detectable universe under the extreme conditions of the galactic core star.
Well, there's one other place, the spooky old wardrobe upstairs, and when you push your way through it, you can enter the transmutation dimension, and it turns out the inhabitants there call it Narnia and it's filled with delightful creatures like witches and talking lions.
barakn
5 / 5 (1) Oct 26, 2012
But seriously. The "extreme conditions of the galactic core" would appear to be high high concentrations of matter and energy. So it turns out that high concentrations of matter and energy are what it takes to release more matter and energy from the transmutation dimension. Wait... this looks familiar. Oh, yes, it's a positive feed back loop. Basically you've described the workings of a bomb the size of the entire universe. If true, your galactic cores would grow at the speed of light until they met other galactic cores, and that's when the shit would really hit the fan, as the proverbial floodgates would be opened throughout every cubic meter of space. Of course, you could try to limit this by pretending there's a limited amount of energy in the hidden dimension, meaning LaViolette's galactic superwaves will have to stop eventually.
barakn
5 / 5 (1) Oct 26, 2012
At any rate, because you're relying on the existence of an unproven hidden dimension to supply matter and energy, you're like all the other cranks out there feverishly working on their free-lunch machines, whether tagged as over unity, zero-point, or whatever. And so yes, a violation of the conservation of mass/energy. Thanks for proving my point.