Black holes fuel brightest cosmic objects

Posted on Monday, October 09 2006 @ 5:13 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck
Astronomers found the best evidence yet that quasars, the brightest objects in the universe, are powered by black holes:
The new study, presented today at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) High Energy Astrophysics Division in San Francisco, lends further confirmation to the idea that quasars are anchored by supermassive black holes and the flattened disks of material spiraling into them.

Astronomers have puzzled over quasars for decades before deciding each is a very active and developing galaxy most likely containing supermassive black holes that formed billions of years ago. This cosmic yin-yang between the darkest and brightest space objects has made understanding quasars difficult.

Black holes are so dense that nothing, not even light, can escape their gravitational clutches, making them impossible to observe directly. And even though quasars, or quasi-stellar radio sources, are the universe’s most powerful sources of constant light, they are billions of light-years away. So even with the most powerful telescopes they appear as pinpoints of light. On top of that, the dust and gas lit up by a quasar makes seeing inside one a great challenge.

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