The Maunakea Observatories Spotted A Pair of Dual Quasars


A chaotic swing between two merging galaxies, each comprising a supermassive black hole that’s quickly feasting on so much matter, it generates a phenomenon known as a quasar.

Astronomers have found such merging galaxies, also known as luminous “dual” quasars, utilizing three Maunakea Observatories in Hawaii. These are the Gemini Observatory, the W. M. Keck Observatory, and the Subaru Telescope. 

The dual quasars are so unique that researchers estimate only 0.3 % of all found quasars have two supermassive black holes that interfere with each other. Here is what you need to know.

Maunakea Observatories’ Effectiveness Proved: New Study Emerges

Quasars are one of the brightest, active objects in the Universe, fueled by supermassive black holes that are millions to billions of times more immense than our Sun. As matter whirls close to a black hole at the center of a galaxy, it is heated up to some high temperatures, discharging so much light that the quasar can outshine its host galaxy. 

Such a phenomenon makes a merging pair of galaxies with quasar activity challenging to spot. It’s also hard to separate the light from the two quasars because they are very close. And, examining a large enough area of the sky to capture these rare events enough times is also a tough task. 

“They represent an important stage in the evolution of galaxies, where the central giant is awakened, gaining mass, and potentially impacting the growth of its host galaxy,” explained Shenli Tang, the co-author of the recent study.

To overcome those challenges, the team of astronomers took advantage of a sensitive broad survey of the sky utilizing the Hyper Suprime-Ca (HSC) camera attached to the Subaru Telescope. They captured 421 promising cases. But, only a few might prove to be the real deal. 

So, utilizing Gemini’s Near-Infrared Integral Field Spectrometer and Keck Observatory’s Low-Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (LRIS), the team discovered three dual quasars, two of which were previously unexplored. Every object in the pair indicated the signature gas traveling at thousands of kilometers/s, influenced by a supermassive black hole. 

The recent finding proves the promise of wide-area imaging and the high-resolution spectroscopic observations to unveil the rare quasars, which are very significant to understand better their supermassive black holes and the evolution of galaxies. 

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