Press Release

The most distant Quasar at z=5.0

January 28, 1999

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Object Name: The Most Distant Quasar at z=5.0
Telescope: Subaru Telescope / Cassegrain Focus
Instrument: CISCO
Filter: J (1.25 micron), K' (2.15 micron)
Color: Blue (J), Green ([J+K']/2), Red (K')
Date: UT 1999 January 14
Exposure: 800 sec (J), 1600 sec (K' )
Field of View: 110 arcsec x 110 arcsec
Orientation: North up, east left

Quasars are the most energetic objects in the Universe. The brightest of them outshine entire galaxies, and are believed to be powered by black holes which weigh more than a billion Suns, yet are not much larger than the solar system. Their extreme luminosities make them easy to see at great distances, and the quasar at the center of this image, discovered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, is the most distant currently known (14 billion light years away), and one of only a handful of objects at the edge of the Universe. We see such objects at a time when the Universe was only about one billion years old, compared to its present age of 15 billion years, because of the time it takes the light to reach us. Due to the expansion of the Universe, distant objects appear to be moving away from us very rapidly, and the Doppler shift causes us to see light from this quasar at a frequency six times lower than that at which it was emitted. Therefore, although this image was taken by Subaru's infrared camera CISCO, we are actually looking at ultraviolet light from the quasar.

Astronomers speculate that for massive objects like quasars to form so soon after the Big Bang, they must lie in especially dense regions of the early Universe. For this reason, it is believed that galaxies should be forming in the space around distant quasars, and large telescope such as Subaru can be used to look for such objects. However, the faint, red galaxies which can be seen in this image are located much closer to us.

(Note: The information is correct as of the release date.)



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