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Bright Glowing Halos Around Distant Quasars Detected by ESO's Very Large Telescope

Oct 27, 2016 04:00 AM EDT
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The European Space Observatory (ESO) announced that a team of astronomers using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) detected giant glowing halos around distant quasars.

Quasars are believed to be the most distant formation in the universe that were detected so far. They give off energy far bigger than 100 galaxies combined, according to NASA.

Recently, a team of astronomers detected glowing gas clouds around quasars. The MUSE instrument on VLT showed that halos surrounding quasars are quite more common than expected. However, what's intriguing about the recent discovery is that the properties and attributes of the halos defy the existing beliefs and theories about how the galaxy formed.

Astronomers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) located in Zurich, Switzerland led the new study. The astronomers used MUSE on the Very Large Telescope to observe and identify the glowing halos surrounding the high-energy and bright quasars. The gas halos are believed to be as old as two billion years after the great Big Bang.

Quasars have supermassive black holes at the center. The black holes feed on stars and other celestial components found in its surroundings. This feeding process causes the emissions of radiation that makes Quasars bright and luminous making them easier to observe in the universe.

Conclusions were based on studying 19 quasars, the brightest as observed by VLT's MUSE program. Based on the studies about 10 percent of quasars are surrounded by halos composed of "intergalactic medium." The halos can be as huge as 300,000 light-years away from the quasar's core.

And to the surprise of astronomers, all 19 observed quasars have halos around them, definitely more than the expected count. Astronomers believe that MUSE and its enhanced capability to observe lead to the discovery of these glowing halos around the target quasars.

"It is still too early to say if this is due to our new observational technique or if there is something peculiar about the quasars in our sample. So there is still a lot to learn; we are just at the beginning of a new era of discoveries", lead author Elena Borisova, of ETH in Zurich said in a press release.

 The study aims to study cosmic webs but ended up discovering the glowing halos around quasars. The 19 quasars are also surrounded by cold intergalactic gas about 10,000 degrees Celsius.

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