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Astronomers Find Cluster of Quasars Aligned Perfectly Across Billion Light Years

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Astronomers Find Cluster of Quasars Aligned Perfectly Across Billion Light Years

Quasars are the most luminous objects in the universe, beacons that shine across vast cosmological distances. They are galaxies that have particularly active supermassive black holes at their cores, objects surrounded by discs of extremely hot matter spiralling into oblivion and emitting bright beams of particles along their spin axes at nearly the speed of light.

New observations with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile have revealed alignments of the largest structures ever discovered in the universe. A European research team has found that the rotation axes of the central supermassive black holes in a sample of quasars are parallel to each other over distances of billions of light-years. The team also has found that the rotation axes of these quasars tend to be aligned with the vast structures in the cosmic web in which they reside.

An artist's impression of the alignment of quasars with the large-scale structure of the Universe (Image: ESO/M. Kornmesser)

An artist’s impression of the alignment of quasars with the large-scale structure of the Universe (Image: ESO/M. Kornmesser)

“The first odd thing we noticed was that some of the quasars’ spin axes were aligned with each other – despite the fact that these quasars are separated by billions of light-years,” explained Dr Hutsemekers, who is the first author of the paper published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

“When astronomers look at the distribution of galaxies on scales of billions of light-years they find that the galaxies form a cosmic web of filaments and clumps. This intriguing arrangement of material is known as large-scale structure.”

Dr Hutsemekers and his colleagues found that the spin axes of the quasars were linked not just to each other, but also tend to be parallel to their host large-scale structures. The researchers estimate the probability that these alignments are due to chance is less than 1%.

“A correlation between the orientation of quasars and the structure they belong to is an important prediction of numerical models of evolution of our universe. Our data provide the first observational confirmation of this effect, on scales much larger that what had been observed to date for normal galaxies,” adds Dominique Sluse of the Argelander-Institut für Astronomie in Bonn, Germany, and University of Liège.

“The alignments in the new data, on scales even bigger than current predictions from simulations, may be a hint that there is a missing ingredient in our current models of the cosmos,” Sluse concluded.

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Study Source: http://goo.gl/bXzw88.



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