The Highest-Resolution Image Ever Seen in Astronomy

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

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.

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