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The multiple merger assembly of a hyperluminous obscured quasar at redshift 4.6

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Science  30 Nov 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6418, pp. 1034-1036
DOI: 10.1126/science.aap7605

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Mergers drive a powerful dusty quasar

Massive galaxies in the early Universe host supermassive black holes at their centers. When material falls toward the black hole, it releases energy and is observed as a quasar. Astronomers found a population of powerful distant quasars that are obscured by dust, but it has been unclear how they are formed. Díaz-Santos et al. observed the dust-obscured quasar WISE J224607.56-052634.9 at submillimeter wavelengths, finding three small companion galaxies connected to the quasar by bridges of gas and dust. They inferred that galaxy mergers can provide both the raw material to power a quasar and large quantities of dust to obscure it.

Science, this issue p. 1034

Abstract

Galaxy mergers and gas accretion from the cosmic web drove the growth of galaxies and their central black holes at early epochs. We report spectroscopic imaging of a multiple merger event in the most luminous known galaxy, WISE J224607.56−052634.9 (W2246−0526), a dust-obscured quasar at redshift 4.6, 1.3 billion years after the Big Bang. Far-infrared dust continuum observations show three galaxy companions around W2246−0526 with disturbed morphologies, connected by streams of dust likely produced by the dynamical interaction. The detection of tidal dusty bridges shows that W2246−0526 is accreting its neighbors, suggesting that merger activity may be a dominant mechanism through which the most luminous galaxies simultaneously obscure and feed their central supermassive black holes.

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