The heart of a quasar! Gaze at the gas clouds around the black hole

The heart of a quasar! Gaze at the gas clouds around the black hole

Optical image of the quasar 3C 273 (pictured in the center), obtained using the Hubble Space Telescope. He became the first identified quasar.

In 1963, astronomer Martin Schmidt identified the first quasi-stellar object (quasar) - an extremely bright, but distant object. He managed to find a single quasar - the active core of a distant galaxy 3C 273. It is 100 times brighter than all the stars of the Milky Way.

In the last study, the team of scientists GRAVITY concluded that gas clouds, moving rapidly around the central black hole, are the heart of this quasar. For the first time the mass of a black hole inside 3C 273 was measured in 2000. This result was confirmed in the new analysis.

Look at the black hole

The GRAVITY instrument, located at the Paranal Observatory (Chile), plays an important role at the expense of unprecedented opportunities. It connects 4 telescopes, forming an interferometer with a length of 130 m. The device is capable of detecting distant astronomical objects at extremely high resolution.

Quasars - one of the most distant objects available for observation. They are also important for the history of the Universe, because their evolution is inextricably linked with the growth of galaxies. Almost all large galaxies contain black holes in the centers, but for a long time only a representative of the Milky Way was open to study. GRAVITY allowed for the first time to allow the movement of gas clouds around the central black hole, showing how they are spinning. Previously, this could not be seen due to the small angular size of the inner region of the quasar and a distance of 2.5 billion light years from us. The broad emission lines created by gas near the black hole are observational signs of quasars.

Previously, the study used the method of variation of light in quasars. But GRAVITY allows you to distinguish structures at 10 micro-angular seconds. Just imagine that you can see a coin on the surface of the moon from the earth. Information about the motion and distance from the gas to the black hole is important for measuring the mass of the latter. For the first time, the old method was tested by testing, confirming the estimate of 300 million solar masses.

This is an important point, because for the first time it was possible to explore the vicinity of a massive black hole outside the Milky Way galaxy. Black holes are exciting objects that allow you to explore physics in extreme conditions.

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