Science & Tech

Chandra scores a double bonus with a distant quasar

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An enormous X-ray jet and an X-ray shadow cast by an intervening galaxy are exciting discoveries for astronomers

In one set of observations of quasar PKS 1127-145, researchers found an X-ray jet that extends over a length of at least a million light years. The jet reveals explosive activity that occurred 10 billion years ago around the quasar’s central supermassive black hole. “The X-rays from the jet are likely due to the collision of microwave photons left over from the Big Bang with a high-energy beam of particles,” said Aneta Siemiginowska of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., lead author on a paper for the May 10, 2002 issue of the Astrophysical Journal. “The intensity of these microwaves today is much less than it was 10 billion years ago, due to the expansion of the universe.” In a separate result obtained by studying the same quasar, scientists found an X-ray shadow cast by an intervening galaxy. On their way to Earth, the X-rays from PKS 1127-145 pass through a galaxy located about 4 billion light years from Earth, which gives astronomers information about the amount of oxygen in the galaxy at that time.