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distant Quasars: Action in the Early Universe

30 Jun 2020, 01:35 UTC
distant Quasars: Action in the Early Universe
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We live in a time when our telescopes can look back to almost the beginning of the universe. That includes the most distant reaches of the cosmos, and, of course, everything in between. Even though astronomers have a good idea of the different categories of objects in the universe, they’re still learning about the details. Take quasars, for example. They exist throughout the universe and appear to have been most active earlier in cosmic history. Understanding them has taken decades, and there is still a LOT to learn about these distant cosmic objects.

An artist’s conception of the quasar Poniua’ena. Quasars like this raise questions about the early universe.Courtesy W.M. Keck Observatory.

The name “quasar” comes from the term “quasi-stellar object”. They caught astronomers’ attention back in the 1950s. That’s when the first ones were detected as strong radio-frequency emitters. Images taken later on showed dim, star-like objects that were the sources of the strong radio emissions. Yet, spectroscopic studies of the light emitted showed that these dim things lay at huge distances from Earth. What could be that strong in radio, show up as a dim star, and be so far away? It was a challenge for ...

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