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A Scintillating Description of Why Quasars Twinkle. Or, How We Tried to Break the Very Large Array.

24 May 2021, 23:10 UTC
A Scintillating Description of Why Quasars Twinkle. Or, How We Tried to Break the Very Large Array.
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

One of the great things about being a radio astronomer is that if you have a good idea, and can convince a group of fellow astronomers that it really is a good idea, then you get to use an amazing telescope like the Very Large Array (VLA) to try it out. For free from anywhere in the world! This is a story about MASIV, a project we worked on that used the VLA in an unusual and previously untested way. Our idea? To try to understand why quasars twinkle.

If your eyes could work at radio wavelengths like the VLA, the sky would have a very different look. One thing you would notice straight away is the many, very bright points of light, similar to stars, but not in the constellations you are familiar with. In this radio view of the sky, the stars are not stars but quasars—young galaxies billions of light-years away.

Quasars are brilliant beacons of intense light from the centers of distant galaxies. They are powered by supermassive black holes enthusiastically feeding on the infalling debris. This feeding frenzy unleashes a torrent of radiation that can outshine the collective light of billions of stars in ...

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