(This press release from January
11, 1995, is reproduced courtesy of the Space Telescope Science Institute.)
This NASA Hubble Space Telescope image shows evidence fo r a merger
between a quasar and a companion galaxy. This surprising result might
require theorists to rethink their explanations for the nature of
quasars, the most energetic objects in the universe.
The bright central object is the quasar itself, located several billion
light-years away. The two wisps on the (left) of the bright central
object are remnants of a bright galaxy that have been disrupted by
the mutual gravitational attraction between the quasar and the
companion galaxy. This provides clear evidence for a merger between
the two objects.
Since their discovery in 1963, quasars (quasi-stellar objects) have
been enigmatic because they emit prodigious amounts of energy from a
very compact source. The most widely accepted model is that a quasar
is powered by a supermassive black hole in the core of a galaxy.
These new observations proved a challenge for theorists as no current
models predict the complex quasar interactions unveiled by Hubble.
The image was taken with the Wide Field Planetary Camera-2.
Credit: John Bahcall, Institute for Advanced Study, NASA.