Stellar corpse called ‘Tasmanian devil’ reveals phenomenon astronomers have never seen
Scientists have made a remarkable discovery using data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. In the constellation Cassiopeia, about 5,000 lightyears away, they have detected a quasar pair, which are two supermassive black holes orbiting each other. However, the quasar pair isn’t the remarkable part — what’s remarkable is that the two quasars have been linked together by a “stellar corpse” called a “Tasmanian devil” that looks like a helix structure made up of million-year-old gas and dust. This is the first time such a phenomenon has ever been seen before by astronomers.
The helix structure is the result of a process known as “accretion” — a cycle of material being pulled into the black holes from the gas clouds around them, eventually forming a disk that is ejected through the poles of the black holes in the form of powerful jets. In the case of the Tasmanian devil, the material has likely been ejected from each quasar in opposing directions towards one another, forming the helix shape.
The discovery not only provides new insight on how supermassive black holes interact with the material around them, but it also serves as an example of how powerful relativity can be on large scales. By understanding the physics of such extreme events, astronomers will be able to better understand the behavior and evolution of black holes, and ultimately the universe itself.