Feeds

Galactic spring-clean unveils missing quasars

Kim 'n Aggie would be proud

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

A team of astronomers might have solved one of the mysteries of astrophysics with the discovery of a clutch of quasars, hiding behind clouds of dust. The discovery was made using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, and could explain previously mysterious levels of cosmic background radiation.

Quasars are very distant, but very strong sources of radio signals. The working theory is that they are located in the central cores of very distant galaxies, where matter falling into a supermassive black hole is turned into a blinding torrent of radiation.

Astronomers suspect that all quasars are surrounded by a dusty ring, and that this hides about half of them from our Earth-based line of sight. However, the cosmic X-ray background, primarily made up of emissions from quasars, suggests that there must be many more of the voracious objects than could be accounted for by those currently known about.

Examining data from Spitzer, the team found 21 examples of these lost quasars, hidden behind both a dust ring, and the dust of the galaxy itself. The objects were confirmed as quasars by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array radio telescope, New Mexico, and the William Hershel Telescope on La Palma.

Alejo Martinez-Sansigre from the University of Oxford noted: "We were missing a large population of obscured quasars, which had been inferred from studies at X-ray frequencies. This newly discovered population is large enough to account for the X-ray background."

The trick now, he says, will be to work out why there are more hidden quasars than unobscured ones. ®

Related stories

Hubble sends back new pictures to mark 15 years in orbit
Life on earth follows 62 million year cycle
First galaxies arrived early, and overweight
Galactic prang fingered in star formation mystery
Astronomers spot first ever dark galaxy

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.