Virtual Tour of a Quasar
Posted by Brian Ventrudo
The target of today’s virtual tour is a quasar, an exotic galaxy at the edge of the universe. This particular quasar, called Q1634+706, is so far away its light is nearly twice as old as our solar system, and it may be the most distant object you can see with a backyard telescope. This virtual tour was inspired by the excellent article by Sue French in the July 2012 Sky and Telescope. Sue made it seem easy to see this amazingly distant object. So let’s give it a try…
The visual magnitude of this quasar is about 14.4, which means you can see this object with a 10″ or large telescope in dark sky. To us, it looks just like a star. But the intrinsic brightness of this quasar is astounding. A quick calculation shows that if this quasar was at the same distance as the Orion Nebula, it would shine as bright as our sun!
Quasar Q1634+706 makes a nearly equilateral triangle with the bottom two stars of the bowl of the Little Dipper. Look for the quasar in a field of stars about 1.9º north-northwest of the star 15 Draconis (see map below, and watch the video).