Giant ionized gas nebula found by astronomers

November 14, 2017 by Tomasz Nowakowski report
HST WFC3 FR716N image of the “Teacup” containing the Hα+[NII] lines. Credit: Martin et al., 2017.

(Phys.org)—A group of astronomers has discovered a giant nebula of ionized gas extending over 300,000 light years. This nebula turns out to be associated with the quasar dubbed the "Teacup." The finding was presented November 7 in a paper published online on the arXiv pre-print server.

"Teacup" (official designation SDSS J143029.88+133912.0) is a radio-quiet type 2 quasar at a redshift of 0.085. It owes its nickname to the peculiar morphology of its extended . Previous studies have reported that the quasar showcases a loop-shaped structure resembling a "handle" that extends up to about 40,000 light years of the (AGN).

More recently, a team of astronomers led by Montserrat Villar Martin of the Center of Astrobiology in Madrid, Spain, have conducted spectroscopic study of "Teacup" using the Optical System for Imaging and low Resolution Integrated Spectroscopy (OSIRIS) at the 10.4-m Great Canary Telescope (GTC) on the island of La Palma, in the Canaries, Spain. The observations carried out in February 2017 allowed the researchers to detect a giant ionized gas nebula, which appears to be associated with the studied quasar.

"We present here new results based on optical long slit spectroscopic data obtained with the Spanish Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC). We analyze and interpret the properties (size, kinematics, line ratios) of a newly discovered giant reservoir of ionized gas associated with the "Teacup," which extends for more than 100 kpc," the authors wrote in the paper.

According to the study, the newly found ionized gas nebula extends about 360,000 light years across an emission line galaxy designated G1 (PA60) at a redshift of 0.317 and at least 230,000 light years across other galaxy named G2 (PA90) at a redshift of 0.57. Such dimensions make it one of the largest known ionized nebulae associated with active galaxies at any redshift.

The researchers suggest that this nebula is part of the circumgalactic medium (CGM) of the "Teacup" quasar, which has been populated with tidal debris by galactic interactions. They assume that the nebula could be photoionized by the quasar's active galactic nucleus.

"This rich, gaseous medium has been rendered visible due to the illumination by the powerful active nucleus, (…) The nebula is most likely photoionized by the AGN," the paper reads.

The astronomers also found that kinematics of the are much more quiescent in its outer parts and that the AGN of "Teacup" was more luminous in the past. They estimate that the dimming of the active galactic nucleus began some 46,000 years ago and since than it has faded by a factor of 115.

The authors of the study emphasized that their discovery could be important for improving our understanding of circumgalactic medium. Given that large scale inflow and outflow from galaxies takes place in CGM, any new detections in this field could provide more insights into this processes believed to be shaping galaxies and driving their evolution. Therefore, they endorse astronomers to perform more detailed studies of .

"Deep wide field integral field spectroscopy of powerful AGN with instruments such as MUSE on Very Large Telescope (VLT) opens up a way to detect and study the elusive material from the CGM around massive active thanks to the presence of a luminous AGN that can render it visible," the team concluded.

Explore further: Galaxy encounter fires up quasar

More information: A 100 kpc nebula associated with the "Teacup" fading quasar, arXiv:1711.02529 [astro-ph.GA] arxiv.org/abs/1711.02529

Abstract
We report the discovery of a ~100 kpc ionized nebula associated with the radio quiet type 2 quasar (QSO2) nicknamed the "Teacup" (z=0.085). The giant nebula is among the largest known around active galaxies at any z. We propose that it is part of the circumgalactic medium (CGM) of the QSO2 host, which has been populated with tidal debris by galactic interactions. This rich gaseous medium has been rendered visible due to the illumination by the powerful active nucleus (AGN). Subsolar abundances (~0.5Z(sun)) are tentatively favored by AGN photoionization models. We also report the detection of coronal emission (Fe+6) from the NE bubble, at ~9 kpc from the AGN. The detection of coronal lines at such large distances from the AGN and the [NII]/Halpha, [SII]/Halpha, [OI]/Halpha optical emission line ratios of the giant nebula are consistent with the fading quasar scenario proposed by Gagne et al. (2014). The fading rate appears to have been faster in the last ~46,000 yr. Deep wide field integral field spectroscopy of giant nebulae around powerful AGN such as the "Teacup's" with instruments such as MUSE on VLT opens up a way to detect and study the elusive material from the CGM around massive active galaxies thanks to the illumination by the luminous AGN.

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18 comments

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gculpex
1.5 / 5 (2) Nov 14, 2017
ionized gas=plasma...
Chris_Reeve
1.4 / 5 (9) Nov 14, 2017
Article: "They assume that the nebula could be photoionized by the quasar's active galactic nucleus."

Assume is the correct word, because Edwin Hubble's former assistant Halton Arp has alternatively suggested that quasars are ejected from active galactic nuclei in an electron-deficient state (which he argues is also the cause of the high redshift -- which has a significant intrinsic component). As the galaxy subsequently rotates, the filament which traces the ejection becomes a highway for electrons to travel into the quasar -- hence the teacup handle.

That would seem to basically fit what we see here, and the explanation has generally worked time and time again.

What people are not quite understanding about the situation is that this alternative interpretation could not be accepted for the very reason that it could be considered an attack up on the Big Bang. It remains a reasonable interpretation.
RNP
4.6 / 5 (10) Nov 14, 2017
@Chris_Reeve
Arp's guesses are soundly refuted by every piece of observational evidence acquired since he made them. This has been pointed out to you innumerable times. Your continued repetition of these falsehoods serves only to make you look silly.
Chris_Reeve
1.5 / 5 (8) Nov 14, 2017
Re: "Arp's guesses are soundly refuted by every piece of observational evidence acquired since he made them."

Academia refuses to track challenges to "settled" science, so it's not clear how you have arrived at this judgment. Whatever the process is, it's hardly a rigorous one. There have been numerous confirmations since even his recent passing.
barakn
4 / 5 (8) Nov 14, 2017

Academia refuses to track challenges to settled science
What an oddly stupid thing to say, considering that Arp was a member of the IAU, published dozens of papers in respected journals, and whose names from his "Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies" are still used by professional astronomers to this day.
Chris_Reeve
2 / 5 (8) Nov 14, 2017
Re: "What an oddly stupid thing to say, considering that Arp was a member of the IAU, published dozens of papers in respected journals, and whose names from his "Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies" are still used by professional astronomers to this day."

You're completely misstating the situation. Arp was removed from his telescope time (as part of a larger documented CalTech purge) for the sin of publishing a paper which argued against the Big Bang.

CalTech took over the Palomar telescope and effectively branded all research which runs counter to the Big Bang as "obviously wrong".

If you are so easily tempted to misstate the controversy, there really is no subsequent opportunity for you to accurately track his vindications since.
barakn
4.1 / 5 (9) Nov 14, 2017
Everything I said is true, there are no misstatements. As for your statement that
Academia refuses to track challenges to settled science
, Arp's published papers, and the papers published in rebuttal (or in support) are how science tracks debates. Papers in Arp's favor are being published after his recent death. http://iopscience...ulltext/ So your statement was a lie.
cantdrive85
1.8 / 5 (10) Nov 14, 2017
Everything I said is true, there are no misstatements. As for your statement that
Academia refuses to track challenges to settled science
, Arp's published papers, and the papers published in rebuttal (or in support) are how science tracks debates. Papers in Arp's favor are being published after his recent death. http://iopscience...ulltext/ So your statement was a lie.

Yep, you zinged him barakn. BTW, the paper was published in 2006 (well before Arp passed, but whatever) and it has been cited a total of 19 times... That's almost 2 per year! Wow! Science has really dissected and ferreted out the debate. Weren't there 2000 contributors on the GW pseudoscience that was just published? Seems as if someone figures something is settled...
Chris_Reeve
1.6 / 5 (7) Nov 14, 2017
Re: "Arp's published papers, and the papers published in rebuttal (or in support) are how science tracks debates ... So your statement was a lie."

I mean, with such a process, what could POSSIBLY go wrong?
Chris_Reeve
1 / 5 (6) Nov 15, 2017
Seeing Red: Redshifts, Cosmology and Academic Science
Halton Arp

"In the 1940's the largest telescope of its time, the 200-inch at Palomar, was conceived and built. Since Rockefeller and Carnegie were rival capitalists the Rockefeller Foundation could only give the money to California Institute of Technology rather than the Carnegie Institution of Washington where the world's leading astronomers were. Cal Tech, however had no Astronomy Department so an agreement was signed between the two Institutions that they would jointly operate the Observatory. The noted Carnegie astronomers such as Hubble, Baade, R. Minkowski then initially used most of the telescope time. Younger staff members were gradually included ...

Quasars were discovered in 1963 and astronomers rushed to observe them because they assumed their high redshifts meant they were at great distances and that the nature of the universe would thereby be revealed ..."

(cont'd)
Chris_Reeve
1 / 5 (7) Nov 15, 2017
(cont'd)

"... The Cal Tech radio astronomer who isolated the positions of the first quasars asked for telescope time to observe their spectra and obtain their redshifts. He was told only certain of the faculty could observe with the 200-inch telescope. Those select few went on to measure the spectra and reap the headlines and the original discoverer left the field in disgust ...

There followed an interregnum of about 17 years in which the Cal Tech astronomy Department pressed for a larger and larger share of the telescope time. One must know that in the operating agreement for the Observatory that the Carnegie astronomers were appointed full faculty members at Cal Tech. Then in 1980 Cal Tech broke the agreement, taking over the 200-inch and severing the faculty appointments of the Carnegie astronomers. There were bitter protests by the suddenly discharged faculty (Appeals to the American Association of University Professors were not heeded) ..."

(cont'd)
Chris_Reeve
1 / 5 (7) Nov 15, 2017
(cont'd)

"... it is not just a question of territorial expansion and control, there is also the question of eminence and prestige and the impossiblity of being wrong ...

This is how the elite body of astronomers, which is now the reigning authority in Astronomy, was formed. By now, of course, the students of Cal Tech have gone on to many other elite faculties and astronomers from Harvard, Princeton, Cambridge, etc. have arrived in Pasadena. So as with many self selected elites, their power has grown to be almost monolithic."
Chris_Reeve
1 / 5 (6) Nov 15, 2017
"The disproof of the Big Bang is already nearly 40 years old. Halton Arp's first major paper on discordant redshifts was submitted to The Astrophysical Journal in 1966, at a time when Arp had just finished his Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies and was listed by the Association of Astronomical Professionals as 'most outstanding young astronomer' and among the top 20 astronomers in the world. The editor, Chandrasekhar, rejected that paper because of its subject without even being submitted to peer review. Concerning M87, 2C273, and M49, one of several aligned configurations discussed in that first paper, Arp said, (Seeing Red, 1998) 'Perhaps even more convincing is the common-sense question: Is it significant that the brightest quasar in the sky falls in the dominant cluster in the sky -- and forms a pair with the brightest radio galaxy in the cluster, almost exactly aligned across the brightest galaxy in the center of the cluster? ..."

- Amy Acheson
cantdrive85
1.6 / 5 (7) Nov 15, 2017
The editor, Chandrasekhar, rejected that paper because of its subject without even being submitted to peer review

It's called gatekeeping, and Chandrasekhar, and most if not all of his papers, would have been shown to be irrelevant and meaningless. Someone of his stature would have to have extraordinary character to commit career suicide, clearly he didn't display the character befitting a scientist. Rather he behaved as a politician and the space sciences has been a political effort of the Dark Party ever since.
Chris_Reeve
1 / 5 (6) Nov 15, 2017
Halton Arp, Seeing Red, p.261

"... academics are generally respected and believed more than other professions in this society. They are trusted to be competent and objective. And while many are -- amazingly considering the lack of checks -- many others, particularly the most influential, in my experience, are not ... From the many comments, communications and manuscripts I receive, it is clear that there are many independent thinkers, in and out of science, employed and unemployed, amateurs, students, retirees. Some are not very knowledgeable, others are very well informed. A range of ideas from brilliant to crazy are in abundance. But the common theme which binds them together is their increasing annoyance with the arrogance and complacency of establishment science. As one group puts it 'a discipline so dead set against reforming from within.'"
barakn
4.4 / 5 (7) Nov 15, 2017
Yep, you zinged him barakn. BTW, the paper was published in 2006 (well before Arp passed, but whatever) and it has been cited a total of 19 times...

Good point. Here's an Arp paper from 2012, just two years before death and published in a journal with a respectable 5.5 impact factor. http://iopscience...134/meta
cantdrive85
1.5 / 5 (8) Nov 15, 2017
Good point. Here's an Arp paper from 2012, just two years before death and published in a journal with a respectable 5.5 impact factor. http://iopscience...134/meta

Cited by 6, in almost 6-years. Doesn't look like too many folks see this as much of an issue. Only from a historical perspective will the delusion of the Dark Party be revealed. I have a feeling there will be flat-Earth type jokes directed at the GR, BB, Dark whatever types sooner than most think.
Chris_Reeve
1 / 5 (6) Nov 16, 2017
These attempts to somehow present academia as identifying, documenting and tracking the progress of challenges against their own favored theories is strikingly pathetic.

And how odd that people really care about these impact factors. This much abused metric has been invented by journals, and has nothing at all to do with identifying challenges which may one day prove correct.

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