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New Map Unveils the Cosmic Tapestry of 1.3 Million Quasars
This map was made by Kate Storey-Fisher of the Donostia International Physics Center in Spain and the New York University, USA, and colleagues, and published in the Astrophysical Journal. It uses data from Gaia's third data release, which contained 6.6 million quasar candidates, as well as data from NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). Infographic here
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New Map Unveils the Cosmic Tapestry of 1.3 Million Quasars
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Mar 19, 2024

In an astronomical feat, scientists have created the most expansive map yet of the universe's supermassive black holes, known as quasars, marking a significant leap in our understanding of these cosmic behemoths. The map reveals the location of approximately 1.3 million quasars, with the most distant ones illuminating the cosmos at a time when it was just 1.5 billion years old, a stark contrast to its current age of 13.7 billion years.

David Hogg, a key figure in the map's creation and a senior research scientist at the Flatiron Institute's Center for Computational Astrophysics, alongside his affiliation as a professor of physics and data science at New York University, emphasized the unique nature of this quasar catalog. "This is not merely a collection of quasars; it represents a three-dimensional voyage across the largest volume of the universe ever mapped," Hogg stated. Despite not boasting the highest number of quasars or the finest quality of measurements, its comprehensive coverage of the universe's expanse sets it apart.

The collaborative effort, spearheaded by Kate Storey-Fisher, a postdoctoral researcher at the Donostia International Physics Center in Spain, utilized data from the European Space Agency's Gaia space telescope. Although primarily aimed at cataloging the Milky Way's stars, Gaia's broad sweep also captures quasars and galaxies beyond our own, offering "bonus" data that has now enabled precise measurements of the early universe's matter clustering.

Quasars, the universe's luminous beacons, are fueled by supermassive black holes at galaxy centers, their brightness often outshining entire galaxies. The study of these quasars sheds light on dark matter's behavior and the cosmic web that structures the universe, providing insights into the cosmos's expansion over billions of years.

Comparing the new quasar map with the cosmic microwave background's oldest light has opened new avenues for understanding the universe's fabric. "The juxtaposition of these two cosmic milestones allows us to probe the gravitational influence of dark matter and its role in the universe's evolution," Storey-Fisher noted, highlighting the map's utility across various scientific investigations.

This vast catalog, drawing on data from Gaia's third release and enhanced by NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, has meticulously sifted through potential contaminants, ensuring a clearer view of the quasars and their cosmic surroundings.

Research Report:Quaia, the Gaia-unWISE Quasar Catalog: An All-sky Spectroscopic Quasar Sample
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