Astronomers Discover 63 Previously Unknown Quasars From Ancient Universe

Posted on September 12, 2016

Distant Quasar

Astronomers have identified 63 previously unknown quasars from the ancient universe. These quasars are from when the universe was only a billion years old, thirteen years younger than it is today. The discovery nearly doubles the number of known ancient quasars.

The researchers were led by Eduardo Bañados from The Carnegie Institution for Science. The findings will be published by The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series.

Bañados says in the announcement, "The formation and evolution of the earliest light sources and structures in the universe is one of the greatest mysteries in astronomy. Very bright quasars such as the 63 discovered in this study are the best tools for helping us probe the early universe. But until now, conclusive results have been limited by the very small sample size of ancient quasars."

The researchers say the ancient quasars are rare and finding them is comparable to finding a needle in a haystack. Light from the most distant known quasar, ULAS J1120+0641, took 12.9 billion years to reach us. Bañados also says, "Quasars are among the brightest objects and they literally illuminate our knowledge of the early universe."

Image: ESO/M. Kornmesser
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