Government shutdown could delay fix for Hubble's broken Wide Field Camera 3

13 January, 2019, 20:13 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • Hubble Space Telescope’s team works to revive camera amid NASA shutdown

Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have spotted the brightest quasar ever seen in the early Universe.

The quasar, officially cataloged as J043947.08+163415.7, was formed during the "reionization", or a transitional period in the universe's evolution.

He added: "That's something we have been looking for a long time".

"It's the coolest small planet that we know of around a star this bright", said Diana Dragomir, a postdoc in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA, who led the discovery.

Learning more about this quasar, which also appears to be producing 10,000 stars per year, can teach researchers more about this distant but pivotal time in history, when the first stars and galaxies were kindling and shaping the universe to what we know today.

Readings from the object show it to have brightness equivalent to 600trn suns (yes, you read that correctly), with the supermassive black hole powering it being several hundred million times as massive as the sun. Luckily, the newly studied quasar and galaxy were just bright enough to be flagged as potential distant-universe objects.

NASA says the camera suspended operations Tuesday because of a hardware problem. Gas falling towards the black hole releases incredible amounts of energy, which can be observed over all wavelengths.


"Our theoretical study predicts that we might be missing a substantial fraction of the population of these 'phantom quasars.' If they are indeed numerous, it would revolutionize our idea of what happened right after the Big Bang, and even change our view of how these cosmic monsters grew up in mass", said Pacucci.

The discovery was announced January 9 during a press conference at the 233rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle.

This compares to the Milky Way which produces about one new star every year.

"Clearly, this black hole is not only accreting gas, but has a lot of star formation around it", said co-author Jinyi Yang, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Arizona. However, due to its distance it only became visible as its image was made brighter and larger by gravitational lensing.

Scientists will begin gathering data on the quasar including using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope to try to identify the chemical composition and temperatures of intergalactic gas in the early universe.

According to a recent NASA report, Hubble Space Telescope lost its main camera, the so-called Wide Field Camera 3, and as the United States space agency stated, its engineers and scientists are not likely to address the issue anytime soon due to the government shutdown.

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