Discovery of a student attracts worldwide attention
A student working with the CSIRO (Commonwe alth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) telescope has discovered a quasar whose behavior has amazed astronomers around the world. Lucyna Kedziora-Chudczer, a PhD student at the University of Sydney, has discovered a new type of quasars. She studied the galactic radiation from the quasars using the CSIRO telescope in Narrabi, Australia. according to dr Jauncy, her supervisor, the discovery is of great interest to astronomers.
"I've been monitoring various radio sources for thirty years and have never seen anything like it - it's fascinating," says Dr. jauncey "This discovery could require a complete rethink of how we think about quasars."
Quasars were first discovered in 1963. Although they look like stars on photographic plates, they emit tremendous amounts of energy - 100 to 1000 times that of an entire galaxy of billions of stars!
Kedziora-Chudczer and the observer team conducted a thorough survey to discover new variable radio sources, and they noticed that the radio waves from one particular quasar, PKS 0405-385, are very different from those of all other quasars distinguished.
"The quasar increased and decreased in brightness by 50% in less than an hour, much faster than any other known quasar. Questions to colleagues confirmed the discovery. That made it a lot easier for us, because we were afraid we had made a mistake!" says Kedziora-Chudczer.
"The explanation is that the quasar is about the size of Jupiter's orbit around the sun. That would make it the smallest quasar yet discovered; smaller than we previously thought a quasar could even be.”
If the quasar is really that small, then a difficult problem arises: How can so much energy be produced in such a small volume? "For his small size, he seems much too hot - unthinkably hot. That means we have to look for another explanation," says Dr. Jauncey.
"We suspect that the radio emission from this source 'sparkles' in much the same way as stars do when their light penetrates Earth's atmosphere through turbulence," says Dr. Mark Walker of the University of Sydney, the team's theorist. "In this quasar, the phenomenon is caused by turbulence in the extremely thin gas between the stars of our galaxy."
But even if this hypothesis were to be true, the quasar would still have to be very small; smaller than other quasars, which typically do not "twinkle". And that would again be too hot to be explained by conventional theory.
Astronomers around the world have joined to help unravel this mystery. A full-scale “observation attack” has now been launched against the quasar, using X-rays, optical and other means of observation now and in the future.
The quasar will also soon be observed by Halca, the first space-based radio telescope launched by Japan this year. The mystery became even more murky when the quasar suddenly stopped "sparkling" after a few months of observation. Now the team is eagerly watching the quasar to see if its strange behavior returns.
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