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J.Y. Kim (MPIfR); Boston University Blazar program; EHT Collaboration

This is the first ever close-up of a black hole’s ‘cosmic fire hose’

The team behind last year’s first picture of a black hole has now released the most detailed image yet of the heart of a quasar. The image not only captures the quasar—a supermassive black hole surrounded by blazingly hot gas and dust—but the jet of material it is spewing out into the universe at close to the speed of light. By combining data from radio telescopes as far apart as Hawaii, Spain, Chile, and the South Pole, the Event Horizon Telescope can achieve never-before-seen detail. That allowed the researchers to image the black hole at the center of the galaxy M87, 55 million light-years away, in observations from 2017. During those same observations, Gizmodo Australia reports, the telescope also looked at the quasar 3C 279, which is 100 times as distant, and those data have now revealed the image above, showing a blob (top right) thought to show superhot matter swirling around the black hole and below it a jet of particles fired out into space. The details could help astrophysicists understand how extreme gravity and magnetic fields conspire to create such a cosmic fire hose.

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