Quasar

11/15/2018

“Let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18)

The brightest galaxy ever discovered radiates at 350 trillion times the luminosity of the Sun (1). Identified by astronomers as WISE J224607.55-052634.9, the galaxy was discovered in 2015 by NASA’s space-based Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, thus the moniker WISE. Observations at the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile reveal that the W2246-0526 is pulling matter from three smaller galaxies to fuel its ravenous appetite.

At the core of the galaxy is a supermassive black hole that is estimated to contain 4 billion times the mass of the Sun, so W2246-0526 is categorized as a quasar. The intense gravitational forces of the black hole draw matter into the core at high speeds, and the resulting molecular collisions yield temperatures in the millions of degrees and radiate light with extraordinary brilliance. Tanio Diaz-Santos, the lead author of the research paper published in the journal Science, projects that the galactic feeding frenzy will continue for hundreds of millions of years (2).

Astronomers estimate that the light from the distant W2246-0526 took 12.4 billion years to reach us. They believe that our galaxy is 13.8 billion years old, give or take a few hundred million years, which is a reasonable margin of error for intergalactic calculations. At such a distance, the light from even a super-luminous quasar is faint and difficult to detect without large radio antennas and highly sensitive instruments.

None of this has any particular relevance to our daily lives on earth, but it’s fascinating science, and it’s a reminder that the universe is vast, beautiful, spectacular, unpredictable, and violent. In the grand scheme of things, our galaxy is but a small corner of the universe, and the earth is just a speck of dust in our galaxy, but I believe we are special to our Creator. The bible tells us in Psalm 33:6 that God created the heavens and breathed us into existence (3), so our lives have meaning and purpose beyond the limits of our imagination. Informed by science and fueled by faith, we can look forward to exploring the wonders of the universe with God as our tour guide.

Please share your thoughts, visit our podcast on Anchor, and be blessed.

1 https://phys.org/news/2018-11-trans-galactic-streamers-luminous-galaxy-universe.html
2 http://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2018/11/14/science.aap7605
3 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=psalm+33%3A6&version=NKJV

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