Professor Clive Tadhunter, from the University of Sheffield's Department of Physics and Astronomy, said: "Quasars are one of the most extreme phenomena in the Universe, and what we see is likely to represent the future of the Milky Way when it collides with the Andromeda galaxy in about five billion years. It's exciting to observe these events and finally understand why they occur â€“ but thankfully Earth won't be anywhere near one of these apocalyptic episodes for quite some time."
Quasars are important to astrophysicists because, due to their brightness, they stand out at large distances and therefore act as beacons to the earliest epochs in the history of the Universe. Dr Jonny Pierce, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Hertfordshire, explains:
"It's an area that scientists around the world are keen to learn more about â€“ one of the main scientific motivations for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope was to study the earliest galaxies in the Universe, and Webb is capable of detecting light from even the most distant quasars, emitted nearly 13 billion years ago. Quasars play a key role in our understanding of the history of the Universe, and possibly also the future of the Milky Way".
About the William Herschel and Isaac Newton Telescopes
The William Herschel (WHT) and the Isaac Newton Telescope (INT) are operated on the island of La Palma by the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes (ING) in the Spanish Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC). The ING is funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC-UKRI) of the United Kingdom, the Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO) of the Netherlands, and the IAC in Spain. IAC's contribution to ING is funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities.
J. C. S. Pierce, C. Tadhunter, C. Ramos Almeida, P. Bessiere, J. V. Heaton, S. L. Ellison, G. Speranza, Y. Gordon, C. O'Dea, L. Grimmett and L. Makrygianni, 2023, "Galaxy interactions are the dominant trigger for local type 2 quasars", MNRAS, 522, 1736. Paper: stad455.
University of Sheffieldâ€™s Department of Physics and Astronomy, UK
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Hertfordshire, UK
Cristina Ramos Almeida
Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, Spain
Javier Méndez (ING PR Officer)
"Resuelven el misterio de cómo se encienden los cuásares", IAC press release, 26th April 2023.
More news from ING
ING public releases