Breathtaking blossoms nearly the size of our solar system are strewn across the universe -- hundreds of thousands of them. Quasars are, at the same time, among the most fiery monsters.
Astronomer Maarten Schmidt was the first to discover one and revealed it to the world 50 years ago Saturday in an article in the journal Nature.
His discovery was a sensation in the 1960s and made its way into pop culture. It was the age of the first manned space flights.
"It reverberated," Schmidt recalls. "It drew a lot of attention."
In the popular TV series Star Trek, the original crew of the Starship Enterprise was tasked with inspecting the newly discovered phenomenon close up.
Electronics company Motorola branded a line of televisions Quasar. A decade later Marvel Comics created a superhero with the same name.
Luckily, no quasar is anywhere close to Earth, said Schmidt, who made the discovery at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
If so, "we would all be dead." It would cook the Earth's surface with massive bursts of radiation called gamma rays, he said.
Then, if it were close enough, the quasar would devour our planet, our sun, the whole solar system, in a matter of months, Schmidt said.