The Physics
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An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Power of a Quasar

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Mitton, Jacqueline. Most Powerful Quasar in the Local Universe Blows Its Top. Royal Astronomical Society. April 2003. "PDS456 was discovered in 1997 and lies at a redshift of only 0.184 (a mere 800 million light-years away - our backyard by quasar standards). Its energy output is equivalent to that of 25,000 billion Suns requiring a black hole of roughly a billion solar masses. Such objects are relatively common with high redshifts in the distant Universe, but nearby ones are scarce." 9.75 × 1036 W
ASTRONOMERS GLIMPSE BIRTH OF A QUASAR, University of California-San Diego, June 1998. "Though still in its formative years, the quasar is no less monstrous than many of its elders, shining with the power of 5 trillions suns, with a glow a few thousand times brighter than our own Milky Way galaxy. Quasars are considered the ultimate fireworks show in the universe." 1.95 × 1039 W
Beichman, C. A., et al. Discovery of an infrared-loud quasar, Astrophysical Journal, Part 2 - Letters to the Editor. Vol. 308 (1 September 1986): L1-L5. "The IRAS source 13349 + 2438 is a quasar with a redshift of z = 0.107, broad (15,000 km/s) emission lines and a luminosity of 2.7 × 10 to the 12th solar luminosity, emitted mostly between 4.8 and 12 microns." 1.053 × 1039 W
Beichman, C. A., et al. Discovery of an infrared-loud quasar, Astrophysical Journal, Part 2 - Letters to the Editor. Vol. 308 (1 September 1986): L1-L5. "The IRAS source 13349 + 2438 is a quasar with a redshift of z = 0.107, broad (15,000 km/s) emission lines and a luminosity of 2.7 × 10 to the 12th solar luminosity, emitted mostly between 4.8 and 12 microns." 1.053 × 1039 W
Imamura, James. Solar Luminosity, University of Oregon: 2007. "Performing this experiment leads to the value for the Solar luminosity of 3.9x10**26 watts." n/a

A quasar is the nucleus of a young galaxy. It is a very bright and compact halo of matter that surrounds the large black hole that is the young galaxy. It is known that quasars are very far away because of their very high red shift that indicates an expansion of the universe between the quasar and earth.

When using a normal telescope, quasars look like nothing more than a very tiny point of light. At this point in time, 100,000 quasars have been discovered. Their distances from earth ranges from the closest at 780 million light years to the furthest at 13 billion light years away. Because of their extreme distances from the earth, these quasars that we see today are being observed in their states from millions and even billions of years ago. They give us a very unique glimpse into the universe of old.

Another interesting part of the quasar is its power output. Knowing how far away they must be and to still see them tells us that their power output must greatly exceed anything else that we currently know of. It is believed that one quasar's power output is equivalent to the total power output for a hundred galaxies. One galaxy has approximately 100 billion stars. This energy is in the range of one to 25 trillion of our suns.

After obtaining the number of suns the power output of a quasar is equal to, I converted that to watts, a more standardized result. Solar luminosity is the power of the sun. One solar luminosity is equal to 3.9 × 1026 watts. Since this is the power of the sun and I have the power of a quasar with respect to the power of the sun, the product of these two numbers will be the power of a quasar in watts.

After these calculations, the power of a quasar is placed between 9.75 × 1036 watts and 1.95 × 1039 watts. Both of these numbers represent an incredible amount of power, far beyond that fathomable by the human world today.

Daniel Touger -- 2007