Santiago, Chile – The brightest galaxy humans have ever known is facing an extreme turbulence that’s leading it to collapse. Thanks to the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) instrument, astronomers from the Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago discovered that the W2246-0526 galaxy is “ripping itself apart,” which suggests that its days might be numbered. The study findings were published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Surrounded by a thick dust barrier, the infrared glow of the most luminous galaxy in the universe, makes it an “obscure quasar,” since its brightness is similar to that of 350 trillion suns combined. The object could also be classified as a “Hot DOG”, the acronym for Hot, Dust-Obscured Galaxy. Only one of every 3,000 quasars falls into this category. The infrared radiation is so intense that is causing the interstellar gas to dissipate in all directions and the material is careening throughout the system at about two million kilometers per hour.

Scientists were able to see for the first time inside the brightest object in the universe, a quasar called W2246- 0526. Credit: NASA

“Our ALMA observations clearly reveal extreme conditions in the [inter-stellar medium] of the most luminous galaxy known, where the feedback from the powerful [active galactic nuclei] is having a strong impact on the evolution and fate of the entire galaxy,” the study authors wrote.

Every galaxy has a supermassive black hole at its core. A quasar is formed when the inflow of dust and gas to this enormous black hole reaches a certain level, creating a “super bright” region as the material swirls around the black hole. Quasars are responsible for giving off huge amounts of energy, which is why they end up being a trillion times brighter than the sun. They usually are 3,260 light-years across.

Only ALMA’s unparalleled resolution can enable researchers to see the super bright galaxy in high definition and thanks to it, scientists can study such an important event in the life of the W2246-0526 galaxy. Study authors affirm that the system is unstable “in terms of both the energy and momentum injected by the accrediting super-massive black hole.” The galaxy’s turbulence is a consequence of the infrared energy given off by the dust barrier, which causes a violent impact on the whole system.

Researchers explained that the region that surrounds the black hole is 100 times brighter than the entire galaxy combined because of the radiation, having a tremendous impact on the surrounding stars. Given the huge amount of infrared energy, astronomers believe the galaxy was in a transformative stage of its life, according to co-author Peter Eisenhardt, Project Scientist for WISE at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Source: Daily Mail