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When quasars have supernovas.

The question of what quasars are has been a controversial topic for the last two decades. Lately a consensus seems to have formed among experts in the field that quasars are highly energetic versions of the centers of galaxies. Evidence cited for such a view includes the discovery that some quasars are surrounded by a luminous "fuzz" in which some astrophysicists have found spectra characteristic of stars. Now there is further evidence that quasars are surrounded by stars, as galactic centers should be: the discovery of a supernova in the vicinity of a quasar.

Supernovas are giant explosions of stars, and tend to be individually visible at distances where ordinary stars are not. The quasar in question, catalogued as QSO 1059+730, was observed on May 10, 1983, as part of a program of studying the colors and brightness profiles of the fuzz surrounding several quasars. On the image a bright object appears near the quasar where no such thing was on earlier pictures. This is the first discovery of a supernova associated with a quasar, according to the discoverys, Bruce Campbell of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, British Columbia, Carol Christian of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Corp. in Kamuela, Hawaii, Chris Pritchet of the University of Victoria and Paul Hickson of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

In analyzing their discovery, the observers rule out possible foreground objects in our own galaxy, such as flare stars, asteroids and dwarf novas, on grounds that the object, though variable, does not vary quickly enough for a flare star. It does not move as an asteroid should, and dwarf novas are very rare and improbable. The object's blue appearance and absolute magnitude (-17.6) are consistent with its being a supernova in the "host" galaxy of the quasar. The discoverers conclude that the discovery of more quasar supernovas could aid studies of the energetics of quasars and the galaxies that host them.
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Author:Thomsen, Dietrick E.
Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 6, 1985
Words:321
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