Scientists Spot Record-Breaking Cosmic Jet In Ancient Universe

The celestial phenomenon is coming from a galaxy located 12.7 billion light-years away from Earth.

The Chandra space telescope discovered the most distant X-ray jet of a quasar to date – it existed at a time when the universe was 980 million years old. The jet’s length turned out to be 1.6 times greater than the diameter of the Milky Way.

The existence of supermassive black holes in the first billion years of the life of the Universe does not fit well into the current cosmological theories, since it requires rather massive “embryos” and a fast stable growth rate.

To understand how it formed these objects, scientists are looking for very distant quasars, which are the active nuclei of galaxies, and try to estimate the masses of black holes and determine the rate of accretion of matter onto them.

Composite image of quasar PJ352-15, including observational data in X-ray, optical and infrared wavelengths. Credit: NASA, Gemini, WM Keck Observatory
Composite image of quasar PJ352-15, including observational data in X-ray, optical and infrared wavelengths. Credit: NASA, Gemini, WM Keck Observatory

A group of astronomers led by Thomas Connor from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has published the results of an analysis of data from observations of the quasar PJ352-15 (or PSO J352.4034-15.3373) using the Chandra X-ray space telescope and also studied archival data. obtained using optical, infrared, and radio telescopes.

PJ352-15 was discovered in 2018 and at that time, it was the loudest radio quasar. The redshift of the quasar is z = 5.831, which means that it existed at a time when the age of the universe was just under one billion years.

Radio observations revealed a linear structure with three bright components in PJ352-15, which was rather unusual, and scientists put out two hypotheses on why it appeared like that.

According to the first, at the edge of the image we see a quasar core corresponding to the location of a supermassive black hole, and two other bright spots are parts of a one-way jet.

A snapshot of the three components of quasar PJ352-15. Credit: Momjian, et al / B. Saxton (NRAO / AUI / NSF)
A snapshot of the three components of quasar PJ352-15. Credit: Momjian, et al / B. Saxton (NRAO / AUI / NSF)

Another hypothesis says that the core is in the center, and the other objects are two streams of particles ejected in opposite directions at near-light speeds. However, since one of the extreme objects is closer to the rest of the quasar, as shown by observations in the visible range, the first option is considered preferable.

In the new work, scientists set themselves the goal of confirming the existence of jets and understanding their properties.

As a result, the researchers discovered a jet, about 160 thousand light-years long, while no excess X-ray radiation from the jet was recorded, and the radiation itself, as scientists assume, arises from the Compton backscattering of CMB photons by electrons from the jet.

Given the redshift of the object, we can say that we are observing the most distant and longest X-ray jet of a quasar in the early Universe. It is expected that further, more detailed observations of the quasar will clarify its properties; for this, scientists expect the launch of a new generation of X-ray observatories into space, such as Athena and Lynx.

Recently, the same scientific team revealed the breakthrough discovery of the most distant radio quasar to date. We have a separate article dedicated to these findings here. As for this second study on the X-Ray Jet of Quasar PJ352-15, the preprint of the work is published on the website.

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Bañados, E., Carilli, C., Walter, F., Momjian, E., Decarli, R., Farina, E., . . . Venemans, B. (2018, July 09). A Powerful Radio-loud Quasar at the End of Cosmic Reionization.
Connor, T., Bañados, E., Stern, D., Carilli, C., Fabian, A., Momjian, E., . . . Earnshaw, H. (2021, March 05). Enhanced x-ray emission from the Most Radio-Powerful quasar in the UNIVERSE’S first billion years.
Finley, D. (2018, July 09). Distant quasar providing clues to early-universe conditions.
Mohon, L. (2021, March 09). Gigantic jet Spied from black hole in early universe.
O’Neill, M. (2021, March 14). Massive x-ray JET – extending For 160,000 Light-years – Spied From supermassive black hole in early universe.

Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. My experience as a freelance writer began in 2018 but I have been part of the Curiosmos family since mid-2020. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.
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