Quasars: The Brightest Objects in the Universe

A quasar.

A quasar. CREDIT: NASA

Every day, a massive star, namely the sun, rises into the sky. This star is so incredibly bright that even from Earth, which is 91.408 million miles away, the human eye cannot safely look directly at it. However, this is no where NEAR the brightest object in the universe. Not by a long shot.

Brightest quasar in the universe.

Quasars are, in a sense, supermassive black holes. While light can’t escape from a black hole once it has crossed the event horizon, light and particles can break free around the edges. Additionally, the huge amounts of mass that are falling into the black hole create friction, which makes even more light. This light is also around the accretion disk. The light and particles are then flung with a velocity near the speed of light. All of the particles and photons

are ejected in extremely bright streams above and below the black hole, thereby creating a quasar. Quasars can be up to a trillion times brighter than the sun, and give off more energy than 100 normal galaxies combined!


Quasar J1342+0928.

Aside from being really bright, however, quasars can serve another purpose. Most quasars were formed near the beginning of the universe, when the concentration of matter was much greater. They are also really far away from Earth, as they mostly form relatively close to the center of the universe. The light from the quasars takes billions of years to get to Earth because of the extreme distance. For example, the farthest quasar from earth (J1342+0928) was found to be 13.1 billion lightyears from Earth (The universe was created 13.8 billion years ago) and is thought to be created only 690 million years after the Big Bang. This means that the light that scientists are viewing now that is coming from J1342+0928 actually started from the quasar 13.1 billion years ago, which is only 700 million years after the beginning of the universe. By studying this quasar, scientists might uncover clues on what the early universe was like.