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back to article Astroboffins probe mysterious 'blazar'

An international team of astronomy brainboxes say they have gained valuable initial insights into the behaviour of faraway, molto weirdo space objects known as "blazars". NASA concept art of a blazar in action What a blazar would look like if it wasn't a blazar*. A blazar, according to the boffins, is like a quasar but, erm, …

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Alien

Berrie Giebels said:

"It's like watching a blowtorch where the highest temperatures and the lowest temperatures change in step, but the middle temperatures do not."

So yer cooker and fridge are goin' up & down together but yer microwave aint.

With the eleccy supply to my place I can understand that, dead easy.

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Coat

just so we are clear

is a super enormous black hole bigger than a super massive one? and in what sense?

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Coat

Hmmm

I used to have a Blazar. But then I left school and it was no longer needed.

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Where are the remnants of these things?

We're looking back at the wild freaky things that went on during the Universe's misspent youth, but surely, the implication is that these shenanigans went on around these parts, too. So, local space should be littered with the debris, from all this high living. Where are the super-massive black holes, in our own vicinity?

Even if they were lurking in super stealthy mode, out in intergalatic space, going "you can't see me, because I'm not logically part of your universe, anymore... and anyway, I've run out of stuff to eat", wouldn't we still be able to detect their gravity?

I'm pretty sure, my inability to grasp quite why this is a layman's question, is one of the reasons why I am a layman.

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blowtorch is right

I wonder how close it would have to have been to cook our solar system to a nice golden brown?

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Go

Monkey vs Blowtorch

When you say that your blowtorch was "better than a juggling monkey", I assume you mean "more entertaining" and not "more lethal in a blowtorch / monkey gladiatorial showdown"?

Blowtorching monkeys is wrong. Monkeys WITH blowtorches, however, would seem to be a perfectly acceptable part of any self-respecting global domination plot and as such will be immediately added to my villainous manifesto.

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Flame

Over to Mr Dent

So this is it, we're going to die?

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Boffin

Calendars

> (Recall that there's no zero year in the Gregorian calendar before going commental.

No, there wasn't. Nor was there a 1, nor a 2, nor a 3, nor ......

0, had there been one, would have been in the Julian calendar, not the Gregorian. The Gregorian calendar was introduced at varying times depending on where you were, but never before the 1580's.

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Coat

Eeeeeewwww!

>"A "blazar" is where we on Earth find ourselves looking right down a quasar's energy jet. "

That makes it sound like some kind of intergalactic subatomic-particle-based cosmic bukakke.

Mine's the raincoat.

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Paris Hilton

Trademark Infringement

Chevrolet has been using the Blazer marque in the US for darn near fifty years. Changing just one letter in the name might be interpreted as an attempt to co-opt their trademark. In their dire financial straits perhaps they should sue for damages - after all, these boffins are associating their product with a dangerous and lethal phenomenon!

/sarc

Paris 'cos she knows when to protect her good name

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Remnants

Not a silly question at all. Most, maybe even all, massive quiescent galaxies nowadays have a dormant supermassive black hole. The Milky Way has one, though it's only about three million solar masses which means we were probably only a fairly wimpy quasar in the past.

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Alien

@Daniel

> "Where are the super-massive black holes, in our own vicinity?"

Our galaxy, Andromeda and Triangulum have got super-massive black holes at the centre, so three out of the three closest big galaxies have them. They're just not chucking out insane amounts of energy like this one is, and good thing too.

>"We're looking back at the wild freaky things that went on during the Universe's misspent youth, but surely, the implication is that these shenanigans went on around these parts, too."

I don't think it's quite like that. 1.5 billion years isn't _all_ that long ago when you're talking about the universe though - I wouldn't refer to it as youth, anyway. It's not as if every galaxy was blazing away like this until they all stopped some time in the last billion years - it seems to be uncommon for something to be this energetic. I don't know if there's any reason to believe that this kind of thing isn't still going on somewhere in the universe right now, just not "nearby".

It could be that there's a distribution of these fairly uncommon objects and we just happen to be 1.5 billion light-years away from where this one was 1.5 billion years ago. Maybe they're sporadic - e.g. galaxy collisions could lead to a larger influx of matter than normal (and therefore outbursts like these) over the period of a couple of hundred million years before the source dries up and the black hole reverts to a less blowtorchy state.

Of course if there are any closer to us, but their outburst started more recently than the amount of time it takes the light to get here, we won't know about it.

A quick Google says the closest quasar we know of is 600 million light-years away, so not that far really ("quick jog before breakfast" distance :P).

Blimey that's a long post, and all completely made up, too.

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Thumb Up

Scratch that

Actually, the one in Triangulum's not that big, apparently. Still, two out of three ain't bad.

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Re: subatomic-particle-based cosmic bukakke

Like it

And Ron Murray I can't resist it, sorry: the Gregorian calendar may not have been devised in year 1, but that doesn't stop it from having a year 1 any more than 2011 being in the future stops it from having a year 2011. You know, what with it being an abstract concept and all.

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Silver badge

@Daniel

If you want to find nearby super massive black holes try looking in the middle of some large galaxies. As large black holes are not that hot, they cannot be detected directly. On the other hand, the period and radius of an orbit indicate the mass of the object in the centre. Given a fast enough orbit and a small enough radius, a super massive black hole is the only proposed object that would fit.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S2_(star)

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RW
Flame

"Blazer"

"Blazer" happens to be a common noun, referring to the upper pan of a chafing dish. The blazer is the pan you cook things in. In some parlance it refers to a style of chafing dish that completely lacks the under-pan. The under-pan, when present and used, holds water so the chafing dish functions to keep food hot, not to actually cook it.

Flame because we are, after all, discussing the word "blazer".

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Tom
Silver badge

global domination plot

"Blowtorching monkeys is wrong. Monkeys WITH blowtorches, however, would seem to be a perfectly acceptable part of any self-respecting global domination plot and as such will be immediately added to my villainous manifesto."

That should be blowtorch juggling monkeys!

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Silver badge
Alien

human life is not short

I've been alive for a long time. It feels like ages to me. And I should know.

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Paris Hilton

@ Garret Cotter

Mate - what is a 'dormant supermassive black hole'? Either it IS a singularity with a large enough gravitational field to draw in even light or it isn't. My astrophysics is a little rusty but I don't recall coming across them in New Scientist. I'm not having a pop but genuinely intrigued.

Paris - pulling anything nearby, irresistible attraction etc etc

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Yes, but...

Can I use it instead on incandescent bulbs?

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monkeys

blowtorch surrender monkeys?

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@Youngdog

Just means "not active at the moment", by analogy with volcanoes I guess. The black hole is as you say absolutely still there but not scoffing gas/dust/etc, so no luminous accretion disc or jets. But the presence of a black hole can be inferred e.g. from the velocities of stars very close to the centre of a galaxy - if the speeds are high enough and the orbits are small enough the best bet is a black hole. If you were able to funnel enough stuff down into the core of the galaxy (perhaps in a merger as mentioned above) then presumably it might light up.

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@GC

Nice one Garret - thanks for replying.

Hope you have a good weekend

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