NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is offering yet more insightful images from the cosmos. It captured two quasars that look fairly close together, from a pair of merging galaxies — and then discovered a second set, according to findings published in the journal Nature Astronomy last week.
A quasar is an intense light that comes from the center of a galaxy, according to NASA. It can be so bright that it outshines the galaxy itself and, the space agency says, is fueled by a “supermassive black hole voraciously feeding on inflating matter, unleashing a torrent of radiation.”
A double quasar situation is on the rare side, explained lead researcher Yue Shen of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “We estimate that in the distant universe, for every 1,000 quasars, there is one double quasar.” Finding two pair is even more rare.
Researchers say that in both instances, the quasars are less than 10,000 light-years from each other. Eventually, the galaxies will merge and an even bigger black hole will form. Making observations about this process will help scientists better understand galaxy formation and the role that quasars play in it.
So far, researchers have found about 100 double quasars in merging galaxies.