Quasars Rip Across Galaxies Like Tsunamis – The Most Energetic Outflows Ever Witnessed in the Universe

Galaxy With an Active Quasar

This is an illustration of a distant galaxy with an active quasar at its center. A quasar emits exceptionally large amounts of energy generated by a supermassive black hole fueled by infalling matter. Credit: NASA, ESA and J. Olmsted (STScI)

Using the unique capabilities of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, a team of astronomers has discovered the most energetic outflows ever witnessed in the universe. They emanate from quasars and tear across interstellar space like tsunamis, wreaking havoc on the galaxies in which the quasars live.

This illustration shows a distant galaxy with an active quasar at its center. A quasar emits exceptionally large amounts of energy generated by a supermassive black hole fueled by infalling matter. Using the unique capabilities of Hubble, astronomers have discovered that blistering radiation pressure from the vicinity of the black hole pushes material away from the galaxy’s center at a fraction of the speed of light. The “quasar winds” are propelling hundreds of solar masses of material each year. This affects the entire galaxy as the material snowplows into surrounding gas and dust.

16 Comments on "Quasars Rip Across Galaxies Like Tsunamis – The Most Energetic Outflows Ever Witnessed in the Universe"

  1. I’m confused.. how is this “news”? Was expecting a new paper or ongoing study or something. Did you make a mistake and copy/paste some parts of the march 2020 article “Quasar Tsunamis Discovered – Highest Energy Outflows Ever Witnessed in the Universe”?

    • Sorry it wasn’t made clear in either the headline or content: this was meant to be an astronomy picture of the week type of post rather than a full article.

  2. I remember as a youth, the first time we heard the word Quasar, nobody knew what it was, they even named a tv model after it. On the other hand, a super-high-powered cosmic jet beaming out of a Quasar is the most likely global disaster which nature could use to wipe earth clean, and do a rest and reset of the planet. There was a list of events, the scientists say could end the world. A cosmic gamma ray laser blast from an exploding star was high on the list. If one hits the earth, all life except deep sea creatures will be wiped out. The deep space meters peg the scale occisionally, and no one knows why, and it is the near misses of galactic gamma ray beams. There are deadly cosmic beams out there, it is quite common.

    • Torbjörn Larsson | January 2, 2021 at 2:33 am | Reply

      The high energy events must happen quite close – if they are narrow jets as here they have to lie in line of sight and if they are broad like supernova they dilute with the square of the distance [goes as r^-2] – and we haven’t seen anything in 4 billion years.

      The Milky Way merger tree implies our galaxy may have matured exceptionally fast and calmly [ https://phys.org/news/2020-11-family-tree-milky-deciphered.html ]. From the paper’s conclusion:

      “Focusing on the assembly history of the Milky Way, our results add to a growing body of evidence that the Milky Way experienced an unusual path to adolescence. Not only did it assemble unusually quickly for its mass, but it also experienced a striking paucity of major accretion events, with only a handful of minor mergers shaping the Galactic stellar halo. The fact that it grew most of its stellar mass through secular processes and in-situ star formation implies that it may not be the most representative example for understanding the evolution and assembly of the galaxy population, but is a correspondingly more pleasant environment to live in.”

      • Torbjörn Larsson | January 2, 2021 at 2:43 am | Reply

        Speaking of growing stellar mass through secular processes and in-situ star formation, that implies Milky Way may be more of a flocculent than grand design spiral galaxy.

        “A flocculent spiral galaxy is a type of spiral galaxy. Unlike the well-defined spiral architecture of a grand design spiral galaxy, flocculent (meaning “fluffy”) galaxies are patchy, with discontinuous spiral arms.[1][2] Self-propagating star formation is the apparent explanation for the structure of flocculent spirals.[3] Approximately 30% of spirals are flocculent, 10% are grand design, and the rest are referred to as “multi-armed”.[4] The multiple-arm type is sometimes grouped into the flocculent category.[5]”

        [“Flocculent spiral galaxy” @ Wikipedia]

        Indeed, it now looks like it is, hard to tell from the inside but:

        “The large-scale survey, called SEDIGISM (Structure, Excitation and Dynamics of the Inner Galactic Interstellar Medium), has revealed a wide range of structures within the Milky Way, from individual star-forming clumps to giant molecular clouds and complexes, that will allow astronomers to start pushing the boundaries of what we know about the structure of our galaxy.”

        “”The survey revealed that only a small proportion, roughly 10%, of these clouds have dense gas with ongoing star formation,” said James Urquhart from the University of Kent, the lead author of the third publication.

        Similarly, the results from the work led by Dr Duarte Cabral suggest that the structure of the Milky Way is not that well defined and that the spiral arms are not that clear.

        They have also shown that the properties of clouds do not seem to be dependent on whether a cloud is located in a spiral arm or an inter-arm region, where they expected very different physics to be playing a role.

        “Our results are already showing us that the Milky Way may not be a strong grand design type of spiral galaxy as we thought, but perhaps more flocculent in nature,” Dr Duarte Cabral continued.”

        We seem to live in a sedate corner of the universe.

  3. Wow … more cgi stuff from the NASA priests … u KNOW U LYING …

  4. Bruce Lightfoot | January 2, 2021 at 9:05 am | Reply

    NASASLIES – Jealous, are you? Given that the difference between LIES and BEST GUESS BASED ON ALL AVAILABLE INFORMATION usually hinges on the ability of the reader to interpret the information, it seems your problem with this article is you cannot sufficiently understand the information presented. Perhaps reading comprehension is also an issue. The caption under the picture states it is an “Illustration”. That says it is an artistic representation, or ART. Not even CGI. I suppose you would also say every painted picture on every wall in every building in the world is a LIE, because it is not a photograph, and they you would say the photos were probably photoshopped, distorted, recolored, depth-enhanced and otherwise not identical to what YOU would see if you were where the photo was taken.

    EVERY person who has ever lived has seen the universe through a different set of eyes, and sees a slightly different interpretation of the environment they live in. You are not special, just different. Nobody sees the world exactly as you do, but most of them do not call you a liar because what you interpret as a color or an event is a bit different than anyone else.

    If you don’t like what NASA is saying and showing, buy yourself an observatory, a nice telescope, an easel and paintbrushes. Then sit down and paint what you see, and say how you interpret what is happening to create what you see. Until then, your comments come across as simply more deposits on the windshield of your car from the birds sitting on a branch above.


  5. Maybe, just maybe one should study the release and impacts of this energy on Earths weather. One could suppose that the solar energies passing by/through Earth may have more impact on weather change than all the “energy from mankind” has on our periodic political rants!

  6. “pushes material away from the galaxy’s center at a fraction of the speed of light,” eh?
    Who’d have thought that.

  7. Hi, i just wanted to say i love these artists and photos or illustrations of the world beyond our planet. Some of the technical info goes over my head but the principle of the info is greatly appreciated. Thanks.
    I believe everything has a meaning and every action has a reaction that is carefully balanced in this continually changing/ rotating process called life.
    The prospect of energy tsunamis in out of space is not a hard concept to accept. The cycles and patterns of our own planet; from the smallest microscopic life form to the cycles of large humanoids, shows the careful balance and interaction between each and every level of existence. The fact that earth has not been hit or destroyed in a direct blast just goes to show that outer space is also governed by delicate patterns and cycles of existence.

    Love thy neighbour

  8. Joe Milosch- does this mean the world is ending? I really hope not

  9. Why does “stuff” spin? Galaxies, black holes, planets, stars, electrons, the lot. Does the universe, whatever that may be, also spin?

    • ThinkingHurts | January 6, 2021 at 9:17 am | Reply

      More than likely it does. Its just the next bubble up from galaxy and theres more beyond the universe level bubble. Mature galaxies did not simply appear at the edge of the universe… the were already out there when they were hit by the outward propagating event horizon of particulate throwup that we called the Big Bang. BB simply illuminated them with bounceback such that we could see they were there. I literally read an article describing something that was observed as being 34B LY away… like… whatnow?

  10. IMadeBreadAndThoughtOfSpace | January 6, 2021 at 8:51 am | Reply

    Bob, its probably due to drag effect on the imbalanced solidness of free space whilst trying to maintain momentum in a straight line, imo. A particle and the space around it are actually two halves of one thing and inertia could be a property of space rather than a property of matter. It hit me this lockdown after long thinking that particles may not really exist but are just how convergences appear to us. So the word particle describes a type of convergence and would explain why so many particles derive from the same subparticles. You may not be experiencing the spinning of a particle but the curvature of space. Just a thought. My brain also denounced gravity as a side effect of the apparence of a positive movement of space to balance the negative movement of light. Its relative dont forget… we do this in semiconductor theory all the time… a free space is a positive particle. Just some thoughts.. lockdown was harsh. I also learned AWESOME baking and created a solar cell (and temperture dependent capacitor) out of Chlorophyll.

    • IMadeBreadAndThoughtOfSpace | January 6, 2021 at 9:04 am | Reply

      I was actually trying to imagine the apparence and existence or non-existence of heat and its propagation, its relation to particular inertia and the concept that the maintenance of energy conservation happens through energy storage in space itself. If a torus is the inverse of a sphere then visually this holds up, in my mind. Space should be viewed as a solid object but a question arises : Does a particle Occupy or Displace Space? Its a massive difference between the two and can probably be found with simple vaccuum experiments in space.

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