NASA spots millions of new quasars, a thousand galactic Hot DOGs

The WISE space-based infrared survey telescope has completed two surveys of the sky in the infrared, revealing millions of new supermassive (and ravenous) black holes called quasars. And we weren't exactly looking for Hot DOGs out there, but we found a bunch of 'em anyway.

WISE specializes in observing in the deep infrared part of the spectrum, looking for sources of light that we'd associate with heat energy, sort of like looking at the universe through a pair of night-vision goggles. And just like night-vision goggles, WISE can see straight through some things (like dust clouds) that block visible light. This makes it particularly good at spotting very energetic objects that are very far away, and JPL has just announced that it's found a few new candidates for supermassive black holes called quasars.

By a few, we mean approximately 2.5 million. JPL is calling it a "bonanza" of quasars, so you know they're excited. A quasar is more of a place than a thing: it's a region of space surrounding a supermassive black hole where a bunch of stuff is in the process of being consumed, emitting massive amounts of energy as it does so. In the context of a quasar, a massive amount of energy is something equivalent to about two trillion suns, or about the output of your average galaxy. To sustain this, the black hole at the center of the quasar is eating the equivalent of some 600 Earths every minute. A full two-thirds of the quasars found by WISE had never been seen before.

Also announced today was the detection of galactic Hot DOGs, which are an acronym (as you may have guessed) for hot, dust-obscured galaxies. Hot DOGs are notable in that they host active supermassive black holes at their cores, and they're the among the most luminous objects in the entire universe, pumping out as much energy as 100 trillion suns (!) or about 1,000 times more energy than the entire Milky Way galaxy (!!). WISE has spotted about a thousand of these, and it's thought that they're "cataclysmically forming galaxies" undergoing a rare stage of galactic evolution, powered by supermassive black holes of their own.

Below, we have a gallery for you with images and captions from NASA's press release, some of which have been edited for space.


All images and captions below courtesy NASA.

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