Using Gemini North telescope, scientists have detected most energetic wind from any quasar- traveling at speed nearly 13% of the speed of light. Interestingly, it has enough energy to impact star formation across an entire galaxy.
The energetic wind from quasar SDSS J135246.37+423923.5 is moving into its host galaxy. The quasar lies roughly 60 billion light-years from Earth.
Scientists also measured the mass of the supermassive black hole powering the quasar. This astronomical object is 8.6 billion times as massive as the Sun -about 2000 times the mass of the black hole in the center of our Milky Way and 50% more massive than the well-known black hole in the galaxy Messier 87.
Sarah Gallagher, an astronomer at Western University (Canada) who led the Gemini observations, said, “While high-velocity winds have previously been observed in quasars, these have been thin and wispy, carrying only a relatively small amount of mass. The outflow from this quasar, in comparison, sweeps along a tremendous amount of mass at incredible speeds. This wind is crazy powerful, and we don’t know how the quasar can launch something so substantial.”
Karen Leighly, an astronomer at the University of Oklahoma who was one of the scientific leads for this research, said, “We were shocked—this isn’t a new quasar, but no one knew how amazing it was until the team got the Gemini spectra. These objects were too hard to study before our team developed our methodology and had the data we needed, and now it looks like they might be the most interesting kind of windy quasars to study.”
Hyunseop (Joseph) Choi, a graduate student at the University of Oklahoma and the first author of the scientific paper on this discovery, said, “Some quasar-driven winds have enough energy to sweep the material from a galaxy that is needed to form stars and thus quench star formation. We studied a particularly windy quasar, SDSS J135246.37+423923.5, whose outflow is so thick that it’s difficult to detect the signature of the quasar itself at visible wavelengths.”
Despite the obstruction, the team was able to get a clear view of the quasar using the Gemini Near-Infrared Spectrograph (GNIRS) on Gemini North to observe at infrared wavelengths. Using a combination of high-quality spectra from Gemini and a pioneering computer modeling approach, the astronomers uncovered the nature of the outflow from the object—which proved, remarkably, to be more energetic than any quasar outflow previously measured.
Choi said, “We don’t know how many more of these extraordinary objects are in the quasar catalogs that we don’t know about yet. Since automated software generally identifies quasars by strong emission lines or blue color—two properties our object lacks—there could be more of these quasars with tremendously powerful outflows hidden away in our surveys.”
Martin Still, an astronomy program director at the National Science Foundation, which funds Gemini Observatory from the U.S. as part of an international collaboration said, “This extraordinary discovery was made possible with the resources provided by the international Gemini Observatory; the discovery opens new windows and opportunities to explore the Universe further in the years to come.”
- Discovery of a Remarkably Powerful Broad Absorption-line Quasar Outflow in SDSS J135246.37+423923.5. DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/ab6f72