No-host quasar compared with a normal quasar
This figure shows two Hubble images of quasars from a sample of 20 relatively nearby quasars examined by a team of European astronomers two of the most powerful astronomical facilities available, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) at Cerro Paranal.
The team confidently concludes that the quasar on the left, HE0450-2958 (in the centre, distance about 5 billion light-years) does not have a massive host galaxy. The quasar HE1239-2426 to the right (at a distance of 1.5 billion light-years), has a normal host galaxy which displays large spiral arms. Although HE1239-2426 is much closer than HE0450-2958, the host galaxy of the latter would still be perfectly visible if it was as bright as the one of HE1239-2426.
The lack of a prominent host galaxy around a very bright quasar (HE0450-2958) suggests a rare case of a collision between a seemingly normal spiral galaxy and an exotic object harbouring a very massive black hole.
Also seen in the image to the left (above the quasar) is a strongly disturbed galaxy, showing all the signs of a recent collision. The VLT observations show it to be forming stars at a frantic rate. Below the quasar a foreground star is seen.
The two images have been scaled to exhibit the same linear scale.
The images were taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys onboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.