Number 210 (Story #1), January 13, 1995 by Phillip F. Schewe and Ben Stein|
"A GIANT LEAP BACKWARDS IN OUR UNDERSTANDING OF QUASARS" is the way John Bahcall of the Institute for Advanced Study assesses his new observations of quasars with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Speaking at this week's meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Tucson, Bahcall presented a study of 14 bright and relatively nearby quasars. His goal was to use HST's sharp vision to image the galaxies which, according to current theories, should act as hosts for the quasars insofar as they would provide fuel for the presumed supermassive black hole at the heart of the quasar. Host galaxies are hard to see because of the glare from the quasar itself. In Bahcall's sample of 14, several host galaxies were found, but for 8 quasars no hosts were found. Such "naked quasars" represent a challenge to quasar models. Another surprise was the observation of a quasar attracting and distorting a companion (but not host) galaxy.