The most luminous galaxy in the known universe is so turbulent it may self-destruct, astronomers warn.
Quasars have intrigued astronomers for years, and a recent discovery from researchers working with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has added to the puzzle. According to a report from Phys.org, scientists have reported that the most luminous galaxy in the Universe, marked by a brilliant quasar some 12.4 billion light-years from Earth, is about to succumb to a turbulent fate.
Scientists say that the quasar, located in the galaxy W2246-0526, is on track to lose its whole supply of the gases that fuel star formation. Researchers observing the rapid movements of the gases and dust between the galaxy’s stars reported that the galaxy was close to “ripping itself apart.”
Previous observations indicate that the galaxy is the brightest in the known universe, glowing with infrared radiation nearly 350 trillion times as intense as our own sun. The majority of the energy is traced to the quasar at the center, composed of a massive disk of superheated gas and dust being swallowed down a black hole.
As the disk of gas and dust spins increasingly fast around the black hole, it absorbs light and re-emits it back out into space. The resulting infrared radiation is immensely powerful, obscuring the view of the quasar itself.
According to Roberto Assef, an astronomer from the Universidad Diego Portales and the head of the ALMA team the released the study, “These properties make this object a beast in the infrared. The powerful infrared energy emitted by the dust then has a direct and violent impact on the entire galaxy, producing extreme turbulence throughout the interstellar medium.”
The massive amounts of infrared energy surrounding the quasar are causing it to become increasingly turbulent. ALMA scientists are confident that the galaxy is unstable, and predict that it will shed a huge portion of the gas and dust that it contains.
A press release from the European Southern Observatory describing the recent findings can be read here.