A 100 kpc nebula associated with the “Teacup” fading quasar

HST image and GTC/OSIRIS spectra of the “Teacup” containing the Hα+[NII] lines. We highlight prominent emission line features such as the NE and SW bubbles. For further details, see Villar-Martín et al. 2017.

The “Teacup” (SDSS J143029.88+133912.0 at z=0.085) is a nearby quasar, whose nickname comes from the peculiar morphology of the extended ionized gas. It shows a loop-shaped structure reminiscent of a teacup “`handle” which extends up to ~12 kpc (~39,000 light years) NE of the active galactic nucleus. This powerful active galaxy has been subject of intensive studies by different groups for two main reasons. On one hand, the “Teacup” is a fading quasar. The luminosity of the active nucleus appears to have dropped by ~100 times in the last ~46.000 years. On the other hand, the system has been proposed to be the scenario of a superwind generated by the frenetic activity of the supermassive black hole hidden at the heart of the galaxy.

In a recent work published in the MNRAS journal Montserrat Villar and colleagues have obtained yet another exiting result related to the “Teacup”. Using the 10m GTC Spanish  telescope and the OSIRIS instrument, the authors have discovered a giant gaseous structure associated with it, that  extends for more than 300.000 light years. We are able to see this enormous ionized nebula thanks to the “illumination” by the bright light emitted in the  neighborhood of the  supermassive black hole. The nebula is made of debris from galactic interaction events  that have populated a large volume around the parent merging galaxies in the so called “circumgalactic medium”. The light emitted by the nebula adds further evidence in support of the “fading quasar scenario” and shows that the process has become faster with time.

Accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, M. Villar-Martín A. Cabrera-Lavers A. Humphrey M. Silva C. Ramos Almeida J. Piqueras López and B. Emonts, 2017, https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stx2911

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