Courbin, Meylan, Djorgovski, et al., EPFL/Caltech/WMKO

ScienceShot: A Quasi-Stellar Looking Glass

For decades the intense light of quasars has blinded astronomers trying to learn more about them and the galaxies they inhabit. But that's about to change. In a new study, published today in Astronomy & Astrophysics, researchers used gravitational lensing to see through the brilliance. Until now, scientists have applied this technique by finding a massive galaxy directly in front of a quasar, a super-bright object that sits at the center of another galaxy and is powered by a black hole. Because of gravity, the galaxy bends the light from the quasar and produces multiple images of it to astronomers. But this time researchers tried the opposite: finding a quasar directly in front of a galaxy, a task much harder because of quasars' tendency to conceal whatever is behind them with their bright light. The team hopes that by learning the mass of the quasar's galaxy, they can learn more about how quasars and their galaxies evolve, and whether galaxies with quasars are at all different from galaxies without them.

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