An Overwhelming Sense of Discovery

Jose Vargas ’15 is a time traveler.

As an undergraduate researcher in professor John Wardle’s lab, Vargas studies quasars, the brightest and most remote objects in the universe, clocking in at 10 to 12 billion light years away, meaning Vargas is looking 10 to 12 billion years in the past.

Quasars form when supermassive black holes — billions of times the mass of the Sun — feed on nearby material. The matter forms an accretion disk around the black hole, heating up to millions of degrees and blasting out radiation and powerful jets of particles, traveling at nearly light speed — like the universe’s largest particle colliders.

Astrophysicists believe that quasars may be an important step in the birth of galaxies.

We asked Vargas to describe what it’s like to see into the past. Here is what he said:

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