Hubble Space Telescope discovers the most energetic outflows ever witnessed

Shane McGlaun - Mar 23, 2020, 8:26 am CDT
Hubble Space Telescope discovers the most energetic outflows ever witnessed

Scientists used the Hubble Space Telescope to discover the most energetic outflows ever witnessed in the universe. These highly energetic outflows come from quasars and rip across interstellar space like a tsunami. The scientists note that the highly energetic outflows wreak havoc on the galaxies where quasars live.

The quasar is a very distant celestial object that emits exceptional large amounts of energy. Quasars contain supermassive black holes that are fueled by matter falling into them that can shine as much as 1000 times brighter than host galaxies that have hundreds of billions of stars. When the black hole consumes matter around it, it is encircled by hot gas that emits intense radiation, which creates the quasar.

High radiation drives heavy winds in the vicinity of the black hole that pushes material from the galaxy center. Those highly energetic outflows accelerate to incredible velocities that are a few percent of the speed of light. Astronomers on the project say that no other phenomena in the galaxy carries more mechanical energy than these outflows. Over the lifetime of 2 million years, the outflows produce a million times more energy than a gamma-ray burst. Scientists on the project say that the winds are pushing hundreds of solar masses of material each year.

One of the more interesting findings the scientists have found is that highly energetic outflows generate several hundred times more mechanical energy than the luminosity of the entire Milky Way galaxy. Simulations of the evolution of galaxy suggest that these outflows may explain some puzzling facts about the cosmos. Those facts include why astronomers can observe such few large galaxies in the universe, and why there is a relationship between the mass of the galaxy and the mass of its central black hole. The study found that powerful quasar outflows should be prevalent in the early universe.

For the research, astronomers studied 13 quasar outflows and were able to clock the speed of the gas being accelerated by the quasar when by looking at spectral fingerprints of light flowing from the gas. Ultraviolet data gathered by the Hubble from material along the path of the light were shifted in the spectrum because of the fast motion of the gas across space, due to the Doppler effect. One of the outflows discovered accelerated at around 46 million miles per hour in three years.

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