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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.

House passes sweeping election and anti-corruption bill

Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images

The House voted 220-210Wednesday to pass Democrats' expansive election and anti-corruption bill.

Why it matters: Expanding voting access has been a top priority for Democrats for years, but the House passage of the For the People Act (H.R. 1) comes as states across the country consider legislation to rollback voting access in the aftermath of former President Trump's loss.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

The House voted 220 to 212 on Wednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.