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Hubble Space Telescope's premier camera shuts down

10 January 2019

Quasars are massive celestial objects which emit huge amounts of energy.

The quasar, officially cataloged as J043947.08+163415.7, was formed during the "reionization", or a transitional period in the universe's evolution.

'This is one of the first sources to shine as the Universe emerged from the cosmic dark ages, ' said Jinyi Yang of the University of Arizona, another member of the discovery team.

"We can even look for gas around the black hole and what the black hole may be influencing in the galaxy". The recorded image shows the quasar as it looked 12.8 billion years ago - only about 1 billion years after the big bang.

The rapidly-spinning disk spews jets of particles moving outward at speeds approaching that of light.

Gemini data contained the tell-tale signature of magnesium which is critical for determining how far back in time we are looking as well as aiding in the determination of the mass of the black hole powering the quasar.

The ageing telescope's wide-field camera could be turned off for a while as NASA employees are unable to fix it because of the indefinite political impasse.

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"We don't expect to find many quasars brighter than that in the whole observable universe", said lead investigator Xiaohui Fan of the University of Arizona, in Tucson. By comparison, the Milky Way produces about one new star a year. Luckily, the newly studied quasar and galaxy were just bright enough to be flagged as potential distant-universe objects.

Earth's atmosphere made deciphering the images hard and only by using Hubble were scientists able to identify the quasar image is split into three components.

The quasar is powered by a huge black hole, which is estimated to be several hundred million times bigger than our sun, astronomers will detail in an upcoming paper in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The astronomers only came across it because of a galaxy in the foreground that acted as a gravitational lens - amplifying the ancient light from the quasar.

Data will now be gathered on the quasar with the use of the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope to try to identify its chemical composition and temperatures of intergalactic gas in the early universe.

Orbiting 560 kilometres above Earth, Hubble was launched in 1990 and visited by space shuttle astronauts, for repairs and upgrades, five times.

Hubble Space Telescope's premier camera shuts down