A jet of material being ejected out of a black hole at the centre of the galaxy BL Lacertae. Image: Dr. Jose L. Gomez

The Highest-Resolution Image Ever Seen in Astronomy

4 Feb , 2016 by

What do you get when you combine 15 radio telescopes on Earth and one in space? You get an enormous “virtual telescope” that is 63,000 miles across. And when you point it at a distant black hole, you get the highest resolution image every seen in astronomy.

Although it looks just like a big green blob, it’s actually an enormously energetic jet of matter streaming out of a black hole. And this black hole is 900 million light years away.

As reported at Popular Science, it required an array of 15 radio telescopes on Earth, and the Russian space telescope Spektr-R, to capture the image. This technique—called interferometry—is like creating a telescope that is 63,000 miles across. The detail it provides is like seeing a 50 cent coin on the Moon.

For perspective, the object in the image is 186 billion miles long, at minimum, and would just barely fit in the Oort Cloud.

The jet at the heart of BL Lacertae, with the Oort Cloud and Alpha Centauri for comparison. Image: Gomez et. al., A Lobanov, NRAO.

The jet at the heart of BL Lacertae, with the Oort Cloud and Alpha Centauri for comparison. Image: Gomez et. al., A Lobanov, NRAO.

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Pete
Member
Pete
February 5, 2016 2:42 PM

Is the ovoid distortion a matter of perspective?
Is the bright spot the black hole? – That seems counter-intuitive, but it had to be asked.
Mr. Gough has left us needing much more information.
Also, is this reply system working yet? I have not received any emails of other posts even though I checked the boxes. I will be please if this entry does not tell me it is in duplicate.

Pete
Member
Pete
February 5, 2016 2:45 PM

Sadness here. I was accused of making a duplicate entry, which I most certainly did not do. It also left me with nowhere to go. Just an error message. This is not a pleasant way to interact with an otherwise pretty darned good science website.

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