First Triple Quasar Discovered

Triple quasar. Image credit: Caltech/EPFLQuasars are some of the brightest objects in the Universe, beaming radiation across billions of light-years of space. Although they were a mystery for many years, astronomers now believe they’re the bright radiation from matter clogging up around an actively feeding supermassive black hole.

Although 100,000 single quasars and a few binary quasars are known, a triple quasar has never been discovered. Until now.

Astronomers announced at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle this week that they’ve turned up just such a triple quasar using the powerful W.M Keck Observatory. The three galaxies (and their actively feeding black holes) are located about 10.5 billion years away, which also means that we’re seeing them 10.5 billion years ago; a time when galaxies were regularly interacting and colliding.

These early galactic interactions could play an important role in regulating galaxy growth, and help explain how supermassive black holes and their galaxies seem to grow in unison.