By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Goblin green quasar ghosts caught on camera
NGC 5252 - photo by Natalie Crofts
BALTIMORE, Md. A new series of images show the beauty of quasars flickering to life before fading.

NASA researchers described the glowing objects as the ephemeral ghosts of quasars. The eight images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope show objects with varying wispy structures, including helical, looping and braided patterns.

The ethereal wisps outside the host galaxy are believed to have been illuminated by powerful ultraviolet radiation from a supermassive black hole at the core of the host galaxy, a statement from NASA reads. The most active of these galaxy cores are called quasars, where infalling material is heated to a point where a brilliant searchlight shines into deep space. The beam is produced by a disk of glowing, superheated gas encircling the black hole.

Green goblin objects first caught researchers attention in 2007, when a school teacher found one through the Galaxy Zoo project, according to NASA. The discovery prompted University of Alabama researcher Bill Keel to launch a survey to find more.

The quasars are not bright enough now to account for what were seeing; this is a record of something that happened in the past, Keel said in a statement. The glowing filaments are telling us that the quasars were once emitting more energy, or they are changing very rapidly, which they were not supposed to do.

He theorized that the green filaments are the result of two galaxies merging and pulling gas apart. The quasars change in brightness could be caused by co-orbiting black holes, according to researchers.
Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter