News Release Archive:

News Release 62 of 1057

August 27, 2015 01:00 PM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2015-31

Hubble Finds That the Nearest Quasar Is Powered by a Double Black Hole


Image: Quasar Host Galaxy Markarian 231

Quasar Host Galaxy Markarian 231STScI-PRC2015-31b

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This Hubble Space Telescope image reveals a bright starlike glow in the center of the interacting galaxy Markarian 231, the nearest quasar to Earth. Located 581 million light-years away, we are seeing the galaxy as it looked before multicelled life first appeared on Earth. Quasars are powered by a central black hole that heats the gas around it to unleash tremendous amounts of energy. Hubble spectroscopic observations infer the presence of two supermassive black holes whirling around each other. Because such a dynamic duo is found in the nearest quasar, it would imply that many quasars host binary-black-hole systems. It would be a natural result of a galaxy merger.

Object Names: Markarian 231, Mrk 231, UGC 8058, VII Zw 490, QSO B1254+571

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration, and A. Evans (University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University)


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