Quasars: Beacons in the Cosmic Night


Lerner KL. Quasars: Beacons in the Cosmic Night. DRAFT COPY subsequently published in Science and Its Times: Understanding the Social Significance of Scientific Discovery. Thomson Gale. 2001, This draft updated . 2010.
Lee Lerner


The term quasar is used to describe quasi-stellar radio sources that are the most distant, energetic objects ever observed. Quasars are enigmatic. Despite their great distance from Earth, some are actually brighter than hundreds of galaxies combined, yet are physically smaller in size than our own solar system. Astronomers calculate that the first quasar identified, 3C273 (3rd Cambridge catalog, 273rd radio source) located in the constellation Virgo, is moving at the incredible speed of one-tenth the speed of light and, although dim to optical astronomers, is actually five trillion times as bright as the Sun. Many astronomers theorize that very distant quasars represent the earliest stages of galactic evolution. The observations and interpretation of quasars remain controversial and challenge many theories regarding the origin and age of the Universe. In particular, studies of the evolution and distribution of quasars boosted acceptance of Big Bang-based models of cosmology (i.e., theories concerning the creation of the Universe) over other scientific and philosophical arguments that relied on steady-state models of the Universe. (more)

Last updated on 07/09/2019