Quasars are among the brightest objects in the universe, far outshining the total starlight of their host galaxies. Quasars are powered by supermassive black holes.
NASA, ESA, and F. Courbin (EPFL, Switzerland)
Quasar host galaxies are hard or even impossible to see because the central quasar far outshines the galaxy. Therefore, it is difficult to estimate the mass of a host galaxy based on the collective brightness of its stars. However, gravitational lensing candidates are invaluable for estimating the mass of a quasar's host galaxy because the amount of distortion in the lens can be used to estimate a galaxy's mass. Once candidates were identified, Hubble's sharp view was used to look for gravitational arcs and rings (which are indicated by the arrows in these three Hubble photos) that would be produced by gravitational lensing.
To find these rare cases of galaxy-quasar combinations acting as lenses, a team of astronomers led by Frederic Courbin at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL, Switzerland) selected 23,000 quasar spectra in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). They looked for the spectral imprint of galaxies at much greater distances that happened to align with foreground galaxies. Once candidates were identified, Hubble's sharp view was used to look for gravitational arcs and rings (which are indicated by the arrows in these three Hubble photos) that would be produced by gravitational lensing.Quasar host galaxies are hard or even impossible to see because the central quasar far outshines the galaxy. Therefore, it is difficult to estimate the mass of a host galaxy based on the collective brightness of its stars. However, gravitational lensing candidates are invaluable for estimating the mass of a quasar's host galaxy because the amount of distortion in the lens can be used to estimate a galaxy's mass.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and F. Courbin (EPFL, Switzerland)
For images and more information about Hubble and this study, visit:http://hubblesite.org/news/2012/14
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