ASTRON: Apertif Discovers Twinkling Supermassive Black Holes

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ASTRON: Apertif Discovers Twinkling Supermassive Black Holes

Post by bystander » Fri Aug 21, 2020 6:31 pm

Apertif Images Yield First Scientific Results
Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON) | 2020 Aug 19

The Apertif upgrade of the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope (WSRT) has yielded its first scientific paper based on its images.

Using Apertif (APERture Tile In Focus), searching at a radio frequency of 1.4 GHz, researchers have found an intra-hour variable (IHV) source ... IHVs are very compact radio sources that twinkle on timescales of minutes and are among the rarest objects in the sky. For the past 30 to 40 years only a handful of IHVs have been discovered. However, with Apertif, researchers were able to discover ten more IHVs apart from the one described in the paper. All these IHVs were discovered in a single year, proving Apertif to be very suitable for discovering rare sources. Researchers believe these IHVs to be quasars: supermassive black holes. These quasars are located about 10 billion lightyears from Earth.

The twinkling of these quasars, however, is caused by something else entirely: nearby turbulent plasma clouds situated between the IHV and Apertif, but totally unrelated to the quasar. Through their observations with Apertif, the scientists have learned that these plasma clouds are not uniformly spread across the Galaxy, but are clustered, and that one of these plasma clouds is located very near to, perhaps even within our own Solar System. “We think it lies more or less within the Oort Cloud,” says Prof. Dr. Tom Oosterloo ... If this is indeed the case, that would be a find of great scientific significance. It could point to a new component in our Solar System, possibly tied to its origin. ...

Extreme Intra-Hour Variability of the Radio Source J1402+5347 Discovered with Apertif ~ T.A. Oosterloo et al
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