Triplets may be rare in humans, but they’re even more unusual to find in quasars. But now, an international team of researchers has discovered a quasar triplet about 9 billion light years away – only the second such trio ever discovered.
The strange structure is no mere novelty: Quasar triplet QQQ J1519+0627, described in a paper released Tuesday by the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, will give astrophysicists a look into the growth and development of the universe’s structure.
“We are using them to go and find galaxy clusters that are in the act of forming, essentially,” said coauthor Michele Fumagalli, an astrophysicist at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution in Pasadena.
Quasars are extremely bright objects powered by matter falling into supermassive black holes sitting at the heart of galaxies. When two or more are spotted in the same structure, it's a possible sign that two galaxies are in the process of merging.