Hubble Finds Phantom Objects Near Dead Quasars

These Hubble Space Telescope images reveal a set of bizarre, greenish looping, spiral, and braided shapes around eight active galaxies. The galaxies host a bright quasar that may have illuminated the structures. Credits: NASA, ESA, and W. Keel (University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa)

The green filaments are believed to be long tails of gas pulled apart like taffy under gravitational forces resulting from a merger of two galaxies. Rather than being blasted out of the quasar’s black hole, these immense structures, tens of thousands of light-years long, are slowly orbiting their host galaxy long after the merger was completed.

“We see these twisting dust lanes connecting to the gas, and there’s a mathematical model for how that material wraps around in the galaxy,” Keel said.  Potentially, you can say we’re seeing it 1.5 billion years after a smaller gas-rich galaxy fell into a bigger galaxy.”

The ghostly green structures are so far outside the galaxy that they may not light up until tens of thousands of years after the quasar outburst, and would likewise fade only tens of thousands of years after the quasar itself does. That’s the amount of time it would take for the quasar light to reach them. ”

source – http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/hubble-finds-phantom-objects-near-dead-quasars

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