Hubble Space Telescope Sees a Gravitationally Lensed Quasar


Photo: NASA, ESA and J.A. Muñoz (University of Valencia)

You're looking at a picture of a quasar that's beeing sucked into a black hole, taken by the Hubble Space telescope. ESA's Hubble Space Telescope page explains:

While black holes themselves are invisible, the forces they unleash cause some of the brightest phenomena in the Universe. Quasars — short for quasi-stellar objects — are glowing discs of matter that orbit supermassive black holes, heating up and emitting extremely bright radiation as they do so.

“A quasar accretion disc has a typical size of a few light-days, or around 100 billion kilometres across, but they lie billions of light-years away. This means their apparent size when viewed from Earth is so small that we will probably never have a telescope powerful enough to see their structure directly,” explains Jose Muñoz, the lead scientist in this study.

Until now, the minute apparent size of quasars has meant that most of our knowledge of their inner structure has been based on theoretical extrapolations, rather than direct observations.

The team therefore used an innovative method to study the quasar: using the stars in an intervening galaxy as a scanning microscope to probe features in the quasar’s disc that would otherwise be far too small to see. As these stars move across the light from the quasar, gravitational effects amplify the light from different parts of the quasar, giving detailed colour information for a line that crosses through the accretion disc.

Link - via Forbes


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A quasar *is* a black hole. What we're seeing is a disk of very hot material being ripped apart and spiraling into a monstrous black hole at the center of a galaxy.
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