The Case of the Runaway Quasar


This Hubble image is an unusual sight—a runaway quasar fleeing from its galaxy’s central hub. A quasar is the visible, energetic signature of a black hole, The black hole cannot be seen directly, but it’s the energy source at the heart of its quasars. The quasar, in turn, is an intense, compact source of radiation that can outshine an entire galaxy.

The green dotted line marks the visible boundary of the galaxy. The quasar, called 3C 186, appears as if it were a bright star just off-center, and it’s moving rapidly away from the galactic center. The force involved is roughly equivalent to the energy of 100 million supernovas exploding simultaneously. One plausible explanation for this propulsive energy is that the quasar is being pushed by gravitational waves unleashed by the merger of two other black holes at the center of the galaxy.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA / STScI