An international team of astronomers has discovered within the heart of a nearby spiral galaxy a quasar whose light spectrum indicates that it is billions of light years away. The finding poses a cosmic puzzle: How could a galaxy 300 million light years away contain a stellar object several billion light years away?
Photo of nearby spiral galaxy NCG 7319 with high red-shift quasar at arrow (below). Credit: NASA/Hubble Space Telescope
The team’s findings, which were presented today in San Diego at the January meeting of the American Astronomical Society and which will appear in the February 10 issue of the Astrophysical Journal, raise a fundamental problem for astronomers who had long assumed that the “high redshifts” in the light spectra of quasars meant these objects were among the fastest receding objects in the universe and, therefore, billions of light years away.
“Most people have wanted to argue that quasars are right at the edge of the universe,” said Geoffrey Burbidge, a professor of physics and astronomer at the University of California at San Diego’s Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences and a member of the team. “But too many of them are being found closely associated with nearby, active galaxies for this to be accidental. If this quasar is physically associated with this galaxy, it must be close by.”
Geoffrey Burbidge | EurekAlert!
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