A blazar in the early universe

Details revealed in galaxy’s jet 12.8 billion light-years from Earth

National Radio Astronomy Observatory

Research News

IMAGE: VLBA image of the blazar PSO J0309+27 at a distance of 12.8 billion light-years from Earth. Galaxy’s core is at bottom right, and jet is propelled outward from the core… view more  Credit: Spingola et al.; Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF.

The supersharp radio “vision” of the National Science Foundation’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) has revealed previously unseen details in a jet of material ejected at three-quarters the speed of light from the core of a galaxy some 12.8 billion light-years from Earth. The galaxy, dubbed PSO J0309+27, is a blazar, with its jet pointed toward Earth, and is the brightest radio-emitting blazar yet seen at such a distance. It also is the second-brightest X-ray emitting blazar at such a distance.

In this image, the brightest radio emission comes from the galaxy’s core, at bottom right. The jet is propelled by the gravitational energy of a supermassive black hole at the core, and moves outward, toward the upper left. The jet seen here extends some 1,600 light-years, and shows structure within it.

At this distance, PSO J0309+27 is seen as it was when the universe was less than a billion years old, or just over 7 percent of its current age.

An international team of astronomers led by Cristiana Spingola of the University of Bologna in Italy, observed the galaxy in April and May of 2020. Their analysis of the object’s properties provides support for some theoretical models for why blazars are rare in the early universe. The researchers reported their results in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.


The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.

CREDIT: Spingola et al.; Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF.

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December 24, 2020 4:02 am

“12.8 billion light-years from Earth. The galaxy, dubbed PSO J0309+27, is a blazar, with its jet pointed toward Earth,”
12.8 billion years ago when this signal was generated solar system and the Earth did not exist. At that time the Universe apparently was just over 7% of its present age and due to the expansion of the curved space things have moved along a bit by the time solar system came to being. 

Reply to  Vuk
December 24, 2020 4:39 am

We view this galaxy as it was 12 billion years ago. When we view other galaxies, how do we know that we aren’t looking at the same galaxy at a different time and location?

Reply to  Klem
December 24, 2020 5:15 am

Don’t take it for granted but to see the same source of light / EM radiation at two different location at the same time it implies it has moved at a velocity higher than speed of light, unless we live in an enclosed universe (as distinct from curved or flat universe, there are problems with all of them) and the light has curved full circle by the its total mass. There is lot of guessing going on, the age and distance of a galaxy (and stars within it) are estimated from the combination of the ‘red shift’, ‘gravitational lensing’, etc, based on a number of fundamental assumptions presumed to be true.

Reply to  Vuk
December 24, 2020 11:26 am

With the expansion of the universe this object would now be approx 27 billion light years away from us now, WILD!

Peta of Newark
December 24, 2020 5:09 am

Wish I had a super massive hole – To Die For
Specially if someone came along and filled it with money.
Or Eccles Cakes, I like them. yum yum.
or sherry trifle
or slow cooked belly pork & sweet chilli
or beef steaks with butter
Isn’t there anybody in this world to tell me what to do!!!!

Err, what created a Black Hole all that time ago. Don’t you need super massive stars?
Were there many. Seriously.
And, how fast was The Universe expanding then?
If this thing is going at 75% of c, isn’t there any danger of it outrunning The Universe and escaping?
And if it did, why can we see it?

Speaking of ‘seeing’ – did we all see this?

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David Blenkinsop
Reply to  Peta of Newark
December 24, 2020 10:17 am

Per your question about such distant objects outrunning us, with the latest theories saying that universal expansion keeps accelerating, I’d say ‘sure, that must be so’. Specifically, an alien existing in the Blazar’s vicinity “now”, 13 billion years after the Big Bang, could in no way ever get a signal to the future of *our* vicinity.

In other words, there is far too much extra space piling up to allow such communication, that would be my thought, so TISATAFS, There Is Such A Thing As Free Space?

Reply to  Peta of Newark
December 24, 2020 10:35 am
Reply to  Peta of Newark
December 24, 2020 12:10 pm

I wouldn’t think there is any space available to this Universe beyond where the light has reached since the T=0 time.

December 24, 2020 7:02 am

– need to reclassify as “Astronomy,” not “Climate News.”

December 24, 2020 8:48 pm

This object is revealed by acquisition of photons issued by it 12.8 billions years ago. Does anyone have a clue as to where and what it exists as now? Has the “supermassive black hole” sucked up all the available material around it along with other emissions and objects as it becomes evermore massive while increasing its ability to attract even more things into its body?

Those objects such as quasars and galaxies observed from the greatest distance are often said to be travelling at extreme speeds relative to us. Are those things still travelling at those speeds considering the mass attraction exerted by all those objects on one another when they were much closer together one billion years after the Big Bang. If this expansion was actually slowing and and the universe is a closed body it is possible that photons continuing to travel at light speed on courses that are diverted by massive objects could be coming to Earth from all directions. Could those photons circumnavigate the universe? When visible light and radio telescopes are pointed to one area of space and are moved 180 degrees in the opposite direction will they see light streaming from the same galaxy and if that light was also shifted by close encounters with other supermassive black holes are telescopes observing light emitting objects multiple times. Are there really 1.7 trillion galaxies in the universe or are we suffering from double vision because we don’t know the actual course the light took to get to our telescopes?

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