Maarten Schmidt solves puzzle quasars | Location

Picture of a man with glasses, hand on chin, looking thoughtful.

Maarten Schmidt through Caltech.

Today in science: On February 5, 1963, a Dutch astronaut and Caltech professor Maarten Schmidt had an eureka astronaut studying quasi-stellar radio source, or quasar, which had a profound effect on how scientists viewed the universe. Schmidt was studying a star-like quasar called 3C273 with an extra secret jet. But even a stranger was his spectrum. Astronomers study the spectrum, or range of light waves, that a star emits to determine the composition of an object. But the transmission lines of spectrum 3C273 which did not correspond to known chemical elements. Schmidt suddenly realized that the element was very normal hydrogen in 3C273. It was just hard to pinpoint because the celestial lines of hydrogen did not appear where expected; instead they were heavily oriented toward the red end of the spectrum. Such a big deal relocate could happen if 3C273 were a long way off, about three billion light years away.

Dr. Schmidt recalled the excitement he was telling EarthSky. He said:

This came to fruition immediately: my wife still remembers packing up and down much of the evening.

The effect of this was this: For the quasar to be so far away and still visible, 3C273 needs to be very clear and very powerful. It is now thought to shine with the light of two trillion stars as our sun. That’s hundreds of light tours of our entire Milky Way galaxy. But 3C273 seems to be less than a light-year across, compared to 100,000 light-years for our Honeycomb Trail.

The 3C273 quasar is not far off. It is also very light, implying unknown energy processes in 1963. Schmidt announced his publication about quasars in the journal Nature on March 16, 1963.

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Portrait of an older Maarten Schmidt with patterned and glazed bow ties.

Maarten Schmidt is a Dutch astronomer who, in 1963, recognized that quasars are located in the distant universe, so they must be extremely powerful energy sources.

A bright sun-like circle at the top with a streak of bright color burning down from it.

X-ray image of 3C273 and its jet. Today, this quasar is known to lie at the center of a large elliptical galaxy. Image via Chandra X-ray Theater.

Today, hundreds of thousands of quasars are known, many of which are further and more powerful than 3C273. It is not true to say that they turned the science of astronomy into his ear. Why, for example, are these powerful quasars so far away in space? Light travels at a finite speed (186,000 miles per second), and we only see quasars in a distant place and so in the past. These strange things existed only early in the universe and no longer exist in the present universe. Why?

In the 1960s, 3C273 and other such quotas were strong evidence against Fred Hoyle’s Steady State theory, which suggested that a case is continuously formed as the universe expands, leading to a universe. which is the same everywhere. The quasars showed that the universe is not the same everywhere so they helped us in Big Bang cosmology.

But Steady State’s theory had been losing ground even before 1963. It was the biggest change caused by Maarten Schmidt’s publication about the 3C273 quasar in the way we were. think about it our universe.

In other words, the idea that the 3C273 was lightweight, but nonetheless living in such a small space, suggested a powerful energy that astronomers had never thought of before. 3C273 gave one of their first hints to astronauts that we live in a world of massive explosive events – and extreme temperatures and lights – a place where mysterious black holes diminish and play a key role.

According to a March 2013 email from Caltech:

In 1963, Schmidt ‘s discovery gave us a unique look at how the universe behaved at a much younger time than history – billions of years before the sun and its planets were born. Schmidt, along with his colleague Donald Lynden-Bell, later discovered that quasars are galaxies harboring black holes terribly billions of light years away – not stars in the galaxy ourselves, as was once believed. His progressive work greatly enlarged the scale of the universe and furthered our view today of the brutal nature of the universe in which black holes play a key role.

What are quasars? Astronomers today believe that a quasar is a dense area in the center of an early galaxy in the universe. The thick area is thought to be surrounded by a supermassive black hole in the center, similar to the supposed black hole that lives in the center of our own Milky Way galaxy and many (or most) ) of other galaxies. Quasar’s powerful brightness is thought to be the result of processes that take place in collection disk, or a disc of material around the black hole, because those horrible black holes eat stars that go too close to it. These actions occur when the galaxy comes together, an action that was at its height in the first universe.

The longest known quasar in 2011 was ULAS J1120 + 0641. The quasar appears as a red dot near the center. Multi-image created from the Sky Digital Sloan Review and UK Sky Infrared Deep Sky Review, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Chinese-born Chinese astrophysicist Hong-Yee Chiu coined the name quasar in May 1964 in the publication Physics today. He wrote:

To date, the long-term name ‘semi-stellar radio sources’ has long been used to describe these items. Because the nature of these items is not fully known, it is difficult to prepare a short, appropriate name for them so that their essential properties are apparent from the name. For convenience, the abbreviated form ‘quasar’ will be used throughout this paper.

Currently, the longest known quasar is ULAS J1342 + 0928, but it could pass at any time. It has a regression of z = 7.54 and was present when the universe was about 690 million years old, just 5 percent of the current age.

Bottom line: Today in science, on February 5, 1963, Maarten Schmidt revealed the mystery of the quasars and pushed back the edges of our cosmos. His vision of the farthest and lightest known objects has altered the way scientists view the universe.

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Deborah Byrd