Cloverleaf Quasar (H1413+117)
Data on the Cloverleaf collected by the Chandra X-ray Observatory in 2004 was compared with that gathered by optical telescopes. One of the X-ray components (A) in the Cloverleaf is brighter than the others in both optical and X-ray light but is relatively brighter in X-ray than in optical light. The X-rays from iron atoms were also enhanced relative to X-rays at lower energies. Since the amount of brightening due to gravitational lensing doesn't vary with the wavelength, this means that an additional object has magnified the X-rays. The increased magnification of the X-ray light can be explained by gravitational microlensing, an effect which has been used to search for compact stars and planets in our galaxy. Microlensing occurs when a star or a multiple star system passes in front of light from a background object. If a single star or a multiple star system in one of the foreground galaxies passed in front of the light path for the brightest image, then that image would be selectively magnified. The X-rays would be magnified much more than the visible light, if they came from a smaller region around the central supermassive black hole of the lensing galaxy than did the visible light. The enhancement of the X-rays from iron ions would be due to this same effect. The analysis indicates that the X-rays are coming from a very small region, about the size of the solar system, around the central black hole. The visible light is coming from a region ten or more times larger. The angular size of these regions at a distance of 11 billion light years is tens of thousands times smaller than the smallest region that can be resolved by the Hubble Space Telescope. This provides a way to test models for the flow of gas around a supermassive black hole.
Related category GALAXIES
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