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Thread: It's easy to see 12 billion light years (Quasar BZQ J1424+2256)

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    Default It's easy to see 12 billion light years (Quasar BZQ J1424+2256)



    Quasar BZQ J1424+2256 is located about 4 degrees northeast of Arcturus in Bootes, and so is well placed now for photographing (with modest equipment) or viewing (with a fairly big scope). It is pointed to by the arrow in this luminance-only photo I took a few nights ago:



    What's especially interesting about this quasar is that it has a redshift of 3.62, which using the WMAP 5-year parameters translates into a light-travel time of 11.985 (essentially 12) billion light years. Those same parameters give the age of the universe as 13.77 billion years, so with this object we are seeing back in time 87% of the way to the Big Bang. But wait, there's more! At magnitude 16.5 this object is quite bright by astro camera standards, making it relatively easy to capture. The above is a single 3-minute exposure using a 140mm refractor and SX 694 camera. Undoubtedly it would show up in an even shorter exposure; it would be interesting to see how short this could be - I would guess somewhere under a minute would be enough. A smaller scope would work, too.

    You can confirm the various facts on this object by using NED (NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database) to look it up. The name I've used here is one that is understood by NED - just do a search "By Name" from the NED home page. NED uses the 3-year WMAP parameters by default so you'll have to scroll down 3/4 of the way or so and change them. Most sources seem to use the 5-year (or even 7-year or 9-year) WMAP parameters nowadays, so I don't know why NED chooses 3-year as the default.

    In case you're wondering how I ferreted out this object, I downloaded the "Catalogue of Bright Quasars and BL Lacertae Objects", which you can easily find with Google. All objects in this catalogue are brighter than about magnitude 18.5 (most are brighter than mag 17) so I simply picked out the most distant object (highest redshift) in the whole catalogue.

    My 3-minute exposure has an extra bonus since an airplane flew through the field of view. I actually saw it fly over and would estimate it was a few thousand feet up. Let's say 3,700 feet as a guess (I pick this number to make the following calculation produce a round number). Taking the light-travel time as "distance" (and keeping in mind that this is only one way of defining distance in an expanding universe), the quasar at 12 billion light years is at a distance of 3.7 x 10^23 feet. Dividing this by 3700 feet says that this photo has two objects in it one of which is 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 (100 quintillion, or a tenth of a sextillion) times farther away than the other. I'm pretty sure this is a personal record for me!

    - Mike
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    Default Re: It's easy to see 12 billion light years (Quasar BZQ J1424+2256)

    That's a lot of zeros! These quasar images really make me feel very small...

    Well done,
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    Default Re: It's easy to see 12 billion light years (Quasar BZQ J1424+2256)

    Hi Mike. Well, you really reached out into the past for this object. The great thing about these distant quasars, is the very bright gas jet lights formed just before the matter enters the accretion disc of the black hole. And seeing the airplane in your image was an added treat. Thanks for sharing this annotated capture with us Mike, and best wishes for clear skies.
    Last edited by Makuser; 06-20-2014 at 09:02 PM. Reason: Typo
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    Default Re: It's easy to see 12 billion light years (Quasar BZQ J1424+2256)

    I hope that airplane wasn't headed for the quasar? If so he missed it by about 12 BILLION miles... That amount of time/distance is just staggering to think about, thanks for the info and the image.

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    Default Re: It's easy to see 12 billion light years (Quasar BZQ J1424+2256)

    Outstanding research and image!

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    Default Re: It's easy to see 12 billion light years (Quasar BZQ J1424+2256)

    You can't tell from the downsamled photo I posted, but in the full-res photo it appears that the quasar is slightly elongated (along an upper-left-to-lower-right axis). All the stars around it are perfectly round so I wondered what this could be. Then I noticed that the NED page for the quasar says "This quasar is lensed into four images by a z=0.34 galaxy". So it seems this visible elongation is due to the four lensed images being very close together (probably too close to be resolved by any ground-based telescope). Cool!
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