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

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
Volcanic eruption in Iceland triggers CODE RED aviation warning
Lava-spitting Bárðarbunga prompts action from Met Office
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
Major cyber attack hits Norwegian oil industry
Statoil, the gas giant behind the Scandie social miracle, targeted
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?