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Two quasars. Credit: Silverman, et al.

Scientists have spotted pairs of quasars — supermassive black holes feeding on huge amounts of material — in merging galaxies light-years from our own.

Why it matters: By learning more about these types of rare mergers, scientists may be able to piece together details about how galaxies grow and evolve over billions of years.

  • “In spite of their rarity, they represent an important stage in the evolution of galaxies, where the central giant is awakened, gaining mass, and potentially impacting the growth of its host galaxy,” Shenli Tang, an author of the study about these quasar pairs, said in a statement.

What they did: The team used three telescopes atop Maunakea in Hawaii to identify three quasar pairs in distant merging galaxies after hunting through thousands of previously identified quasars in a database.

  • Astronomers previously identified quasar pairs, but simulations predicted far more than what's been observed in part because these objects are difficult to see. (Both quasars shine brightly due to the gas heating up around the feeding black hole and can be hard to distinguish from one another.)
  • The new discoveries of these quasar pairs — detailed in a study in The Astrophysical Journal suggest about 0.3% of all quasars are actually these dual quasar pairs.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Sep 2, 2020 - Science

A new type of black hole

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Scientists announced Wednesday the first surefire evidence of a never-before-seen type of black hole in deep space.

Why it matters: Intermediate-mass black holes could be key to understanding how black holes and galaxies form.

Ex-Theranos CEO describes alleged abuse by former boyfriend and company exec

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

On her fourth day of trial testimony, ex-Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes described her 10-year romantic relationship with former president Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani as controlling, and said he would sometimes "force me to have sex with him when I didn’t want to."

Why it matters: While Balwani has also been similarly charged with fraud, the two are being tried separately, in part because some of Holmes' defense hinges on blaming him.

Amazon ordered to redo union vote in Alabama

Photo: Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

A U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) official on Monday called for a re-vote in a union election at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama.

Why it matters: The move could set the stage for another organizing drive at the e-commerce giant, which has, so far, fought off unionizing efforts in the U.S.