This NASA Hubble Space Telescope image shows evidence fo r a merger between a quasar and a companion galaxy. This surprising result might require theorists to rethink their explanations for the nature of quasars, the most energetic objects in the universe.
The bright central object is the quasar itself, located several billion light-years away. The two wisps of material on the (left) of the bright central object are remnants of a bright galaxy that have been disrupted by the mutual gravitational attraction between the quasar and the companion galaxy. This provides clear evidence for a merger between the two objects.
Since their discovery in 1963, quasars (quasi-stellar objects) have been enigmatic because they emit prodigious amounts of energy from a very compact source. The most widely accepted model is that a quasar is powered by a supermassive black hole in the core of a galaxy.
These new observations proved a challenge for theorists as no current models predict the complex quasar interactions unveiled by Hubble.
The image was taken with the Wide Field Planetary Camera-2.
Credit: John Bahcall, Institute for Advanced Study, NASA.