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posted by martyb on Tuesday November 21, @03:43AM   Printer-friendly
from the where-will-you-put-it? dept.

Giant Telescope – 8x the Size of Earth – Reveals Unprecedented View of Colossal Cosmic Jet:

Using a network of radio telescopes on Earth and in space, astronomers have captured the most detailed view ever of a jet of plasma shooting from a supermassive black hole at the heart of a distant galaxy.

The jet, which comes from the heart of a distant blazar called 3C 279, travels at nearly the speed of light and shows complex, twisted patterns near its source. These patterns challenge the standard theory that has been used for 40 years to explain how these jets form and change over time.

A major contribution to the observations was made possible by the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, where the data from all participating telescopes were combined to create a virtual telescope with an effective diameter of about 100,000 kilometers.

Their findings were recently published in Nature Astronomy.

Blazars are the brightest and most powerful sources of electromagnetic radiation in the cosmos. They are a subclass of active galactic nuclei comprising galaxies with a central supermassive black hole accreting matter from a surrounding disk. About 10% of active galactic nuclei, classified as quasars, produce relativistic plasma jets. Bazars belong to a small fraction of quasars in which we can see these jets pointing almost directly at the observer.

The new window on the universe opened by the RadioAstron mission has revealed new details in the plasma jet of 3C 279, a blazar with a supermassive black hole at its core. The jet has at least two twisted filaments of plasma extending more than 570 light-years from the center.

"This is the first time we have seen such filaments so close to the jet's origin, and they tell us more about how the black hole shapes the plasma. The inner jet was also observed by two other telescopes, the GMVA and the EHT, at much shorter wavelengths (3.5 mm and 1.3 mm), but they were unable to detect the filamentary shapes because they were too faint and too large for this resolution," says Eduardo Ros, a member of the research team and European scheduler of the GMVA. "This shows how different telescopes can reveal different features of the same object," he adds.

[...] The Earth-to-Space Interferometer RadioAstron mission, active from July 2011 to May 2019, consisted of a 10-meter orbiting radio telescope (Spektr-R) and a collection of about two dozen of the world's largest ground-based radio telescopes, including the 100-m Effelsberg radio telescope. When the signals of individual telescopes were combined using the interference of radio waves, this array of telescopes provided a maximum angular resolution equivalent to a radio telescope of 350.000 km in diameter – almost the distance between the Earth and Moon. This made RadioAstron the highest angular resolution instrument in the history of astronomy.

Journal Reference:
Antonio Fuentes, José L. Gómez, José M. Martí, et al. Filamentary structures as the origin of blazar jet radio variability, Nature Astronomy (DOI: 10.1038/s41550-023-02105-7)

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, @12:42PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, @12:42PM (#1333718)

    Giant Telescope – 8x the Size of Earth ...

    We built a telescope that is 8x the size of Earth? How? Where did we put that? Oh it's a virtual telescope ...

    "RadioAstron VLBI observation provide a virtual telescope of up to eight times the Earth’s diameter"

    • (Score: 1) by Maddog on Tuesday November 21, @02:23PM

      by Maddog (690) on Tuesday November 21, @02:23PM (#1333730)

      A headline that makes sense wouldn't have been as attention grabbing, they have to get those research dollars!