Quasar observed in unprecedented detail

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Three telescopes in different parts of the Earth joined to image two million times more accurate than the human eye.

Three telescopes on two continents were connected to capture the sharpest images ever made of the luminous center of a distant galaxy, the quasar 3C 279 which is more than 5 billion light years from Earth. It is home to a supermassive black hole with a mass of about a billion times the Sun

The image you see is an artistic impression of the quasar 3C 279. The quasars are the bright centers of distant galaxies powered by supermassive black holes.

” This quasar contains a black hole with a mass of about a billion times the Sun, and is so far from Earth that their light has taken more than five billion years to reach us “, reports the July 18 European Space Observatory (ESO) in Chile.

“The team was able to probe scales less than a light year across the quasar, a remarkable achievement for a target that is at a distance of billions of light years,” added the ESO astronomers.

The image was obtained using a special process of interferometry (VLBI or Very Long Baseline Interferometry), an international team of astronomers linked to the team of “Atacama Pathfinder Experiment ‘(APEX) in Chile, with two telescopes in the United States: the Submillimeter Array (SMA) in Hawaii and Submillimeter Telescope (SMT) of Arizona.

With efficiency, the three became a single telescope as large as the baseline or distance between them.

Observations are 2 million times finer than human vision, with clarity about 8 billionths of a degree.

This achievement is an important step in the Event Horizon Telescope, a project which aims among others, is to connect several telescopes to dark matter black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

“The shadow (dark matter) – a dark region seen against a brighter background – is caused because light bends because of the black hole and be the first direct observational evidence of the existence of an event horizon in a black hole, as the boundary beyond which even light can escape, “says ESO.

The study team explained that APEX is the culmination of three years of hard work in the location of this telescope, located at 5,000 meters altitude in the Chajnantor plateau in the Chilean Andes. In the atmospheric pressure is only half that which exists at sea level.

To make APEX could carry out the recent VLBI observations of type, a group of scientists from Germany and Sweden set up new systems of data acquisition, a very accurate atomic clock and data recorders pressurized able to record 4 gigabits per second for long hours under extreme environmental conditions, which is a challenge.

Subsequently these data, about 4 terabytes per telescope, were sent to Germany on hard disks and processed at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn.

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