Subject:      The Quasar

Date:          Wednesday 21 September 2005




A quasar is thought to be powered by the infall of matter onto a supermassive black hole at the centre of a massive galaxy... Here we report the discovery of a quasar lying at the edge of a gas cloud, whose size is comparable to that of a small galaxy, but whose spectrum shows no evidence for stars. The gas in the cloud is excited by the quasar itself. If a host galaxy is present, it is at least six times fainter than would normally be expected... for such a bright quasar. The quasar is interacting dynamically with a neighbouring galaxy, whose gas might be feeding the black hole.

Discovery of a bright quasar without a massive host galaxy

Pierre Magain, Géraldine Letawe, Frédéric Courbin, Pascale Jablonka, Knud Jahnke, Georges Meylan and Lutz Wisotzki; Nature 437, 381-384 (15 September 2005)



Pierre Magain and Géraldine Letawe

Institut d'Astrophysique et de Géophysique

Université de Liège, Belgium


Frédéric Courbin and Georges Meylan

Laboratoire d'Astrophysique, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Sauverny, Switzerland


Pascale Jablonka

Observatoire de l'Université de Genève, Sauverny, Switzerland

GEPI, UMR 8111, Observatoire de Paris, France


Knud Jahnke and Lutz Wisotzki

Astrophysikalisches Institut Potsdam

Potsdam, Germany



Dear Learned and Privileged Researchers,

You have stumbled onto a region of galaxy cluster formation! The feat indeed is most commendable; the discovery of the pristine quasar, though, is not surprising. Another piece of the great jigsaw puzzle – that is the true structure of the observable universe – is now in place observationally as well.


Pardon my saying it, but popular theories today on cosmic evolution have all got the cart before the horse. Galaxies and stars are born not by agglomeration but by fragmentation. Findings such as yours should now help turn things speedily around to this final perspective. Do care to visit The Cosmos for an illustrative description of the formation process for quasars and galaxies.



·        Our observable universe is dotted with enormous nuclear centres, or "cosmic cores," where fusion of matter prevails; and fission dominates the scene everywhere else. (The distribution of the extremely dense cores is akin to the latticework of atomic nuclei in a stable yet vibrant solid medium.)

·        Highly fused matter – the quasars – is periodically ejected by the cosmic core; while matter thus flung towards it by neighbouring cores, accretes continuously – in a now observable steady-state universe. (Just as much as the galactic core is masked by its hub of stars, the cosmic core, too, is not directly visible due to its cover of quasars. However, the cosmic core's gravitational lensing of more distant quasars gives away its existence in the foreground.)

·        The quasars detectable to us are the most massive. Each such nuclear entity goes to spawn, by successive bifurcation, or fissure – the galaxy cluster. (A close group of quasars, that is, from a single cosmic core ejection, would thus give rise to the galaxy supercluster.)

·        The final quasar fragments are thus the galactic cores at birth, bare and dispersing but generally as a gravitationally bound cluster. (In time and down the line, the galactic core would spawn its star clusters by similar periodic mass ejections.)

·        As the active galactic nuclei (AGN) phase tapers off, each galactic core sprouts an equatorial disk in the gravitational well brought about by the body's waxing spin under net mass ejection. (Distinct spiral arms in the disk correspond to major ejections, which also tend to give the core region a bar-shaped look.) As the galactic core, too, runs out of steam, its spin wanes under net mass fallback; the galactic hub bloats; the gravitational well becomes less defined; and the flattened equatorial disk disperses into a larger, water-melon shaped spheroid – the elliptical galaxy. 


For more, please click on The Galaxy and The Protostar. (The latter, incidentally, is a letter written only a fortnight ago following an equally important discovery reinforcing this basic mechanism of cluster evolution.)


Your "discovery of a quasar lying at the edge of a gas cloud, whose size is comparable to that of a small galaxy, but whose spectrum shows no evidence for stars" can be seen in the new light as follows. The quasar here is from a late fragmentation episode of a larger quasar. The latter (older) body had already started accreting a gas cloud, when instability caused the body to fragment (further). (Some binary stars, planets and even moons are born belatedly this way during similar cataclysmic events in the original body.) Although stellar material is in great abundance in such thick clouds of fragmentation debris, the region, nevertheless, remains exceedingly violent for small bodies to survive at this early quasar stage. In the far too overwhelming irradiation from the central quasar, even star-sized debris is soon boiled off into a thick soup of plasma (as in the solar photosphere). "The gas in the cloud is excited by the quasar itself," naturally, since, let alone their close proximity, the quasar has just ploughed through the already searing cloud!


Thus, in conclusion, the quasar is neither powered by a black hole nor hosted by a galaxy. Instead, the quasar is power-packed and boosted from the cosmic core; and goes itself to make galaxies. For the complete picture, do care to check out the website, Any comment, especially critique, would be gratefully received.

Thank you and best wishes.


Eugene Sittampalam



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