Quasar Q2139-0127

August, 2021

Imaging: TS80 apo, ZWO ASI533 (gain 100, 0C), Neodymium
Subs: 28x60s, darks, flats, and darkflats
Software: NINA, Phd2, PixInsight

(Additional notes below)




Something a little different... This is Quasar Q2139+0127 at a redshift of 1.417 in the constellation Aquarius. A quasar is a type of "active galactic nuclei," i.e. it is at the center of a galaxy. But quasars are so intense that the light from them outshines all the rest of the stars in the surrounding galaxy. It just looks like a star because it is so far away that we can't even see the rest of the galaxy around it. So why post about a smudge that just looks like a... smudge?

Well, here is the life story of the photons that made that smudge. They left their spot of creation 9.5 BYA (billion years ago) heading towards a patch of sky containing nothing but some dust. 5.2B years later or at 4.5 BYA, that dust has gravitationally collapsed to become our sun which then lights up. Our Earth forms 50M years later. The photons fly. At 3.8 BYA, simple life began on Earth, and 535 MYA, the Cambrian explosion begins producing an astonishing variety of life. 250 MYA, the dinosaurs rise, and mammals form 50M years later. After the dinosaurs die off in the K/T extinction 65 MYA, the monkey and ape lines start. Around 6 MYA, humans branch off, and then homo sapiens appear on the scene 195,000 years ago. Almost exactly 40 years ago, I arrive in the USA, and 8 months before this image, I start astrophotography. The photons fly. 3 days ago, the photons pass through four pieces of glass in a telescope and then smack into a semiconductor sensor. They disappear in a flash of energy which is counted and recorded as numbers in a file. 2 hours ago, I process several such images to make this picture.

That's right. These photons had been in existence and flying towards us for more than twice the age of our sun, our solar system, and our Earth. And now some humans are looking at their ghosts as a smudge on an image.