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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.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Fauci says he accepted Biden's offer to be chief medical adviser "on the spot" — The recovery needs rocket fuel.
  2. Economy: U.S. economy adds 245,000 jobs in November as recovery slows — America's hidden depression: K-shaped recovery threatens Biden administration.
  3. Education: Devos extends federal student loan relief to Jan. 31
  4. States: New Mexico to allow hospitals to ration coronavirus medical care
  5. Vaccine: What vaccine trials still need to do.
  6. World: UN warns "2021 is literally going to be catastrophic"
  7. 🎧 Podcast: Former FDA chief Rob Califf on the vaccine approval process.
2 hours ago - Health

A safe, sane survival guide

Photo: Luka Dakskobler/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

We all know, it’s getting worse.

Reality check: Here are a few things every one of us can do to stay safe and sane in coming months: