The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) captured the highest resolution images to exist of a powerful cosmic jet blasting from a massive black hole, according to a new study published in Nature Astronomy on Monday.
Using the EHT — the telescope responsible for obtaining the first-ever image of a black hole — researchers were able to observe jet emissions from the black hole located at the center of the Centaurus A galaxy in greater detail, specifically with 10 times higher accuracy and with 16 times sharper resolution than before.
The images show the jet with a dark center lined with two bright stripes, which scientists suggest could potentially be a result of its outer regions interacting with surrounding gas and dust. The groundbreaking observations were facilitated by the EHT collaboration, which unites eight radio observatories across the globe to work in tandem as one Earth-sized telescope.
“This allows us for the first time to see and study an extragalactic radio jet on scales smaller than the distance light travels in one day,” astronomer Michael Janssen of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany and Radboud University in the Netherlands, said in a statement. “We see up close and personal how a monstrously gigantic jet launched by a supermassive black hole is being born.”
Centaurus A — a sprawling elliptical galaxy located in the constellation Centaurus — was identified in 1949 to be the first known source of radio waves outside of Earth’s galaxy, the Milky Way.
“Centaurus A is our close neighbor in the intergalactic sense; it’s only about 10 million light years away,” said Maciek Wielgus, a co-author of the study and researcher at the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard & Smithsonian, in the statement. “And its central region is very different from our own galactic center; there’s so much more power emerging from the nucleus of Centaurus A.”
Following the high-resolution images of Centaurus A’s jets, EHT scientists are now focused on capturing a video of the black hole located at the center of the Milky Way, Sagittarius A, in order to obtain a better understanding of its surrounding environment.