Distant Quasar Ejects 2 Million Light-Year Long Jet of Cosmic Material

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The megaparsec-scale jet emanating from PKS 0637-752. Image: Dr Leith Godfrey, ICRAR and Dr Jim Lovell, UTas.

This extended jet of cosmic materials, traveling near light speed, emerged from a distant galaxy. The flow is almost 2 million light-years long, at least 20 times larger than the Milky Way. Astronomers published their findings in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The outflow is coming from a distant quasar that was formed 6 billion years ago and is shining with the power of 10 trillion suns. It’s called PKS 0637-752 and is thought to be an early galaxy with a supermassive black hole in its center. When dust and gas fall into the black hole, they are spun around and this spiraling motion accelerates the charged particles like a particle accelerator.

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X-ray image taken by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory of PKS 0637-752

The image was taken by the CSIRO Australia Telescope Compact Array radio telescope in New South Wales, and shows off the radio wavelengths of the galactic jet. There are dot-like structures seen within the jet, which are intriguing astronomers. These formations are known as knots and they aren’t very well understood. However, they seem to represent sections of the jet separated by 160,000 to 360,000 light-years each.

This odd pattern suggests that the jet is periodically turning off and on, or that some kind of shockwave within the jet is causing the knots. Astronomers are examining the data to better understand this object and its features.

[via Wired]

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