A close quasar pair in a disk–disk galaxy merger at z = 2.17

Yu-ching Chen, Xin Liu, Adi Foord, Yue Shen, Masamune Oguri, Nianyi Chen, Tiziana Di Matteo, Miguel Holgado, Hsiang-chih Hwang, Nadia Zakamska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Galaxy mergers produce pairs of supermassive black holes (SMBHs), which may be witnessed as dual quasars if both SMBHs are rapidly accreting. The kiloparsec (kpc)-scale separation represents a physical regime sufficiently close for merger-induced effects to be important1 yet wide enough to be directly resolvable with the facilities currently available. Whereas many kpc-scale, dual active galactic nuclei—the low-luminosity counterparts of quasars—have been observed in low-redshift mergers2, no unambiguous dual quasar is known at cosmic noon (z ≈ 2), the peak of global star formation and quasar activity3,4. Here we report multiwavelength observations of Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) J0749 + 2255 as a kpc-scale, dual-quasar system hosted by a galaxy merger at cosmic noon (z = 2.17). We discover extended host galaxies associated with the much brighter compact quasar nuclei (separated by 0.46″ or 3.8 kpc) and low-surface-brightness tidal features as evidence for galactic interactions. Unlike its low-redshift and low-luminosity counterparts, SDSS J0749 + 2255 is hosted by massive compact disk-dominated galaxies. The apparent lack of stellar bulges and the fact that SDSS J0749 + 2255 already follows the local SMBH mass–host stellar mass relation, suggest that at least some SMBHs may have formed before their host stellar bulges. While still at kpc-scale separations where the host-galaxy gravitational potential dominates, the two SMBHs may evolve into a gravitationally bound binary system in around 0.22 Gyr.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-49
Number of pages5
Issue number7955
StatePublished - Apr 6 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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