ALMA confirms molecular gas outflows from quasar in early universe

ALMA confirms molecular gas outflows from quasar in early universe

ALMA confirms molecular gas outflows from quasar in early universe

Scientists have discovered strong evidence substantiating the theoretical predictions of intense molecular gas outflows originating from quasars, according to a new study published in the Astrophysical Journal on February 1.



A quasar is an extremely bright and compact area powered by a supermassive black hole. 

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile detected outflows from this quasar when the universe was less than one billion years old.

Due to their considerable distance from Earth and intense brightness, quasars offer a unique glimpse into the early universe, specifically when it was still in its infancy.

The latest observations shed light on these outflows’ crucial role in controlling star formation in the galaxies.

“Theoretical work suggests that molecular gas outflows play an important role in the formation and evolution of galaxies from an early age because they can regulate star formation,” said Dragan Salak at Hokkaido University.

Findings crucial to understanding star formation activity in the early galaxies

The creation of stars is mostly dependent on molecular gas. According to the press release, the vast and high quantities of molecular gas inside a galaxy are expected to increase the formation of stars.

Quasars, being exceptionally energetic sources, were expected to generate powerful outflows, and this study provides the first concrete evidence supporting this hypothesis.

The theories suggest that the molecular outflows may release gas into intergalactic space faster than the gas can be used to generate stars. Excessive gas release might effectively inhibit the star formation rate in galaxies containing quasars.

ALMA confirms molecular gas outflows from quasar in early universe

ALMA investigated J2054-0005, a quasar with a high redshift. When an object moves away from an observer, the light waves it emits get stretched, causing a shift toward the red end of the spectrum. 

J2054-0005 is known to be one of the brightest quasars in the distant universe.

The team leveraged ALMA’s sensitivity and broad frequency coverage to examine the outflow of molecular gas from this quasar in the early universe. 

“The outflowing molecular (OH) gas was discovered in absorption. This means we did not observe microwave radiation coming directly from the OH molecules; instead, we observed the radiation coming from the bright quasar—and absorption means that OH molecules happened to absorb a part of the radiation from the quasar. So, it was like revealing the presence of a gas by seeing the ‘shadow’ it cast in front of the light source,” explained Salak in the release.

The latest observations are crucial in better understanding the complex processes that shaped the galaxies in the cosmic dawn.

Source: Interesting Engineering

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ALMA confirms molecular gas outflows from quasar in early universe

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