Massive Quasar Outflow

Thursday, November 29, 2012 0 comments

Astronomers have discovered a quasar with the most massive outflow ever seen. 

Quasars are bright galactic centers powered by supermassive black holes, and 

many of them accelerate the material around them, throwing it out a high speed 

in a process that plays a key role in the evolution of galaxies. The newly 

discovered quasar is, according to researchers, five times more powerful than 

any quasar previously seen.

A new study, to be published in The Astrophysical Journal, details the 

observations made of the quasar SDSS J1106+1939 using the European Southern 

Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. It reports that a 

mass equal to about 400 suns is streaming away from the quasar every year at a 

speed of 8000 kilometers per second (about 5000 miles per second).

“We have discovered the most energetic quasar outflow known to date,” said 

Nahum Arav, team leader on the research. “The rate that energy is carried away 

by this huge mass of material ejected at high speed from SDSS J1106+1939 is at 

least equivalent to two million million times the power output of the Sun. 

This is about 100 times higher than the total power output of the Milky Way 

galaxy – it’s a real monster of an outflow. This is the first time that a 

quasar outflow has been measured to have the sort of very high energies that 

are predicted by theory.”

According to the researchers, theoretical simulations of galaxies suggest 

quasar outflows could explain how the mass of a galaxy is linked to its 

central black hole mass, and why there are so few “large” galaxies in the 


“I have been looking for something like this for a decade, so it’s thrilling to 

finally find one of the monster outflows that have been predicted!” said Arav.


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