Hubble Telescope’s Camera is Broken Again - Yet Gov. Shutdown Could Delay Repair

Four lasers beam into the sky to help sharpen images taken using the Very Large Telescope. Credit ESO  F. Kamphues

Four lasers beam into the sky to help sharpen images taken using the Very Large Telescope. Credit ESO F. Kamphues

This is the first time the camera has acted up like this, said Cheryl Gundy, a spokeswoman with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which handle science operations for the telescope.

Lead author Xiaohui Fan, from the University of Arizona, said he did not expect to find many quasars brighter than this in the entire universe.

'This discovery demonstrates that strongly gravitationally lensed quasars do exist despite the fact that we've been looking for over 20 years and not found any others this far back in time'.

A quasar is the extremely bright nucleus of an active galaxy and its powerful glow is created by the incredible amounts of energy released by gas falling toward the supermassive black hole at its centre.

A red shift value of 6.51 is one of the largest recorded by astronomers and helped to closely estimate the age of the quasar.

One of the premier cameras on the Hubble Space Telescope is no longer working and NASA shut down the camera while the issue is investigated, NASA said on Tuesday.

An artist's impression showing how J043947.08+163415.7, a very distant quasar powered by a supermassive black hole, may look close up.

According to the data, the quasar may be producing up to 10,000 stars a year and the supermassive black hole at its center is accreting matter at an extremely high rate.

This compares to the Milky Way which produces about one new star every year.

"We don't expect to find many quasars brighter than that in the whole observable universe". Luckily, the newly studied quasar and galaxy were just bright enough to be flagged as potential distant-universe objects. The intervening, or lensing, galaxy in this case makes the quasar appear 50 times brighter than it would otherwise. This gravitational lensing, which occurs thanks to Einstein's theory of general relativity, magnifies the brightness of the distant quasar, thereby making it visible to astronomers.

Despite this only Hubble's sharp vision allowed astronomers to discover the quasar.

Astronomers also hope to use the Atacama Large Millimetre/Submillimetre Array and Nasa/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, which wil be launched in 2021, to look at the supermassive black hole and measure the influence of its gravity on the surrounding gas and star formation.

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