Hubble Space Telescope's main camera is out of action

Olive Hawkins
January 10, 2019

They say the light began its journey nearly 12.8billion years ago, soon after the Big Bang created the universe.

By chance, a galaxy in the foreground acted as a gravitational lens which magnified the ancient quasar.

"That's something we have been looking for a long time", said lead author Xiaohui Fan at the University of Arizona.

"We would like to have Hubble back up and working as quickly as possible, and Nasa is making that happen", even with the partial government shutdown, she said.

They are the bright nuclei of active galaxies and have a star-like appearance when seen through a telescope. It's burning brighter than 600 trillion suns.

All galaxies have a supermassive black hole at their cores.

Before the cosmos reached its billionth birthday, some of the very first cosmic light set off through the expanding universe.

NASA's Hubble Telescope captured the brilliant beacon of light coming from the quasar which is 12.8 billion light-years away. This picture is the most detailed wide-field view of this object ever taken and shows the many glowing gas clouds in the spiral arms with particular clarity. While the mass of the newfound quasar's black hole means it's large for the early universe, it's not among the biggest, Fan told Live Science.

The Wide Field Camera 3 on the Hubble Space Telescope is having problems.

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'This is one of the first sources to shine as the Universe emerged from the cosmic dark ages, ' said Jinyi Yang of the University of Arizona, another member of the discovery team.

"Prior to this, no stars, quasars, or galaxies had been formed, until objects like this appeared like candles in the dark".

NASA will continue to study the quasar to find out more about its gas consumption and identify the chemical composition and temperatures of intergalactic gas in the early universe. "We don't expect to find many quasars brighter than that in the whole observable Universe!".

The newly discovered quasar, catalogued as J043947.08+163415.7, is no exception to this; its brightness is equivalent to about 600 trillion Suns and the supermassive black hole powering it is several hundred million times as massive as our Sun. This matter - known as an accretion disk - is likely to be continuously spiraling inwards in order to feed the black hole powerhouse.

"Its properties and its distance make it a prime candidate to investigate the evolution of distant quasars and the role supermassive black holes in their centres had on star formation", co-author Fabian Walter said.

Scientists claim it is by far the brightest quasar yet discovered in the early universe. This quasar has a redshift of 6.51 - which translates to a distance of 12.8 billion light years.

The quasar is ripe for future scrutiny.

The team is also using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, and hopes to also observe the quasar with the upcoming NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope.

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