Best-ever snapshot of black hole jets 'captured'

The new image shows a region less than 4.2 light-years across, less than the distance between our sun and the nearest star. Radio-emitting features as small as 15 lightdays can be seen, making this the highest-resolution view of galactic jets ever made.

The team targeted Centaurus A, a nearby galaxy with a supermassive black hole weighing 55 million times the sun's mass. Also known as NGC 5128, Cen A is located 12 million light-years away in the constellation Centaurus and is one of the first celestial radio sources identified with a galaxy.

Seen in radio waves, Cen A is one of the biggest and brightest objects in the sky, nearly 20 times the apparent size of a full moon. This is because the visible galaxy lies nestled between a pair of giant radio-emitting lobes, each nearly a million light-years long.

Using an intercontinental array of nine radio telescopes, the scientists were able to effectively zoom into the galaxy's innermost realm.

"Advanced computer techniques allow us to combine data from the individual telescopes to yield images with the sharpness of a single giant telescope, one nearly as large as Earth itself," said Roopesh Ojha at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.

The findings are to appear in an upcoming edition of the 'Astronomy and Astrophysics' journal.

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