An artist's impression of the material ejected from the region around the supermassive black hole in the quasar SDSS J1106+1939 (Photo : ESO/L. Calçada)
While black holes are known for sucking in all forms of matter including light, the quasars that surround supermassive black holes at galaxies' centers eject material at incredibly high speeds. A team of scientists observed a quasar blast earlier this year and have now determined it is the most powerful one observed to date - so powerful its energy output was 100 times higher than the total energy output of the entire Milky Way Galaxy and at least five times more intense than any previously observed quasar blasts.
The study has been accepted by The Astrophysical Journal, and was accomplished using ESO's Very Large Telescope. The findings will help scientists understand more about how quasars influence our universe.
"We have discovered the most energetic quasar outflow known to date. The rate that energy is carried away by this huge mass of material ejected at high speed from SDSS J1106+1939 is at least equivalent to two million million times the power output of the Sun," says team leader Nahum Arav from Virginia Tech.
"This is the first time that a quasar outflow has been measured to have the sort of very high energies that are predicted by theory."
The quasar SDSS J1106+1939 shoots out matter that adds up to around 400 times the mass of the sun out per year at speeds of close to 5,000 miles per hour.
Scientists have theorized that quasar outflows may help explain the formation of large galaxies, and how a galaxy's mass is linked to the mass of its central supermassive black hole. Until now, a quasar outflow this massive had only been theorized.
"I've been looking for something like this for a decade," says Nahum Arav, "so it's thrilling to finally find one of the monster outflows that have been predicted!"