James Webb Space Telescope will study Quasars to understand evolution of universe

Jay Kakade
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Quasar's Outflow Illustration of Quasar's outflow. (Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Joseph Olmsted (STScI))

According to early science investigations of James Webb Space Telescope, Quasars played a vital role in early evolution of galaxies. Quasars are luminous distant objects powered by supermassive black hole. Such black holes can have billions of solar masses, typically located at center of galaxies.

Quasars survive on infalling matter and releases huge number of radiations. Its light is too bright that outranks any other light. Jets and winds of quasars are believed to shape galaxies.

Astronomers at Webb said, “will examine what part quasars play in galaxy evolution during these early times. The team will also use the quasars to study the gas in the space between galaxies in the infant universe.”

Webb has focused its view in deep space. Its extreme sensitivity to low light and ability to capture high resolution, will be crucial in observing objects which are not known to us very well.


Quasar An artist's Illustration of a distant Quasar. (Image Credit: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva)

Currently, Webb is in mode of commissioning. Right after the commissioning period is over, telescope will start its mission to observe quasars. James Webb Space Telescope will study six of the quasars, its evolution and gas distribution between galaxies.

Researchers are keen to study more about Epoch of Reionization – Epoch that happened around 13 billion years ago or a billion years before the formation of universe. Galaxies at this time were opaque to light, therefore those objects are difficult to observe.



According to Webb officials, Webb will be using quasars as a background light source to study gas between quasar and us. At a specific wavelength, Quasar’s light is absorbed by this gas. Absorption lines in gases can be captured through imaging spectroscopy technique.

Team members said, as the quasar’s light are stretched due to space expansion, the ability of Webb to observe infrared light will be beneficial for studying this period. This expansion phenomenon is Cosmological Redshift, which moves light waves to infrared area f spectrum. Webb is equipped to overserve even in such condition.


Quasar's Details An supermassive black holes in active galaxy producing narrow jet particles and streams of gas. (Image Credit: ESA/AOES Medialab)

Astronomers are hoping to capture enough light from quasars to look for metals – Elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. Webb officials said, "These elements were formed in the first stars and the first galaxies and expelled by outflows"

Outflow is another topic on checklist of Webb, to better understand how gases – in galaxy push and surrounding - are accumulated by a supermassive black hole. Sometimes outflow can become too strong that can greatly affect evolution of galaxies. Since a star is dependent on gas for formation, removed gas during outflow can slow down or completely cease the rate of star formation.



Researchers think outflow one of the factors to distribute gas, dust and elements across the universe. This process can impact both the host galaxy and also the intergalactic medium.
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