Planetary scientists have captured what they claim is the best ever, most detailed image of particle jets erupting from a supermassive black hole in a nearby galaxy.
An international team, including NASA funded scientists, produced the image using radio telescopes located throughout the Southern Hemisphere.
"These jets arise as infalling matter approaches the black hole, but we don't yet know the details of how they form and maintain themselves," said Cornelia Mueller of University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, the study's lead author.
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.