Article Title: Astronomers Capture Detailed View of Plasma Jet from Distant Black Hole
Astronomers have recently achieved a significant breakthrough by capturing the most detailed view of a plasma jet shooting from a supermassive black hole in a distant galaxy. This groundbreaking discovery was made possible by a network of radio telescopes on Earth and in space. The observations provide new insights into how these jets form and change over time, challenging the standard theory that has been used for four decades.
The supermassive black hole at the heart of a distant blazar called 3C 279 is the source of the jet, which travels at nearly the speed of light and exhibits complex, twisted patterns near its origin. The Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany played a crucial role in these observations by combining data from all participating telescopes to create a virtual telescope with a massive effective diameter of about 100,000 kilometers.
The findings, recently published in Nature Astronomy, shed light on blazars, which are known as the brightest and most powerful sources of electromagnetic radiation in the cosmos. Blazars belong to a subclass of active galactic nuclei and consist of galaxies with a central supermassive black hole that accretes matter from a surrounding disk. Among active galactic nuclei, approximately 10% produce relativistic plasma jets, and blazars represent a small fraction of quasars where the jets are almost directly pointed towards the observer.
The researchers were able to image the innermost region of the jet in blazar 3C 279 with unprecedented angular resolution, revealing remarkably regular helical filaments. These findings may require a revision of current theoretical models used to explain jet formation in active galaxies. The observed helical filaments are believed to be caused by instabilities developing in the jet plasma, emphasizing the need for new theoretical models.
The study also suggests the presence of a helical magnetic field that confines the jet, indicating the possibility of the magnetic field directing and guiding the jet’s plasma. This discovery opens up new avenues for understanding the role of magnetic fields in the formation of relativistic outflows from active galactic nuclei.
The observations were made possible through the use of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), a technique that combines data from different radio observatories to create a virtual telescope. The mission, known as Earth-to-Space Interferometer RadioAstron, involved a collection of ground-based radio telescopes and a 10-meter orbiting radio telescope. This mission provided the highest angular resolution in the history of astronomy, enabling scientists to have unprecedented views of cosmic phenomena.
The remarkable results achieved in this study were a result of an international collaboration between observatories and scientists from various countries. Their combined efforts and expertise were essential in obtaining these exceptional findings. However, further analysis and improvement of radio astronomical instruments and techniques are still required to gain a better understanding of the role of magnetic fields in the formation of relativistic outflows from active galactic nuclei.
This groundbreaking discovery revolutionizes our understanding of plasma jets and their origin in supermassive black holes. It highlights the importance of continued exploration and research in unraveling the mysteries of the universe.
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