Cosmic lens lets astronomers zoom in on a black hole’s burps | Science News

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Cosmic lens lets astronomers zoom in on a black hole’s burps

Seeing into the heart of a faraway galaxy could explain how jets of hot material get their start

By
5:01pm, August 18, 2017
black hole jets from M87

REACHING OUT  Many supermassive black holes shoot jets of hot material thousands of light-years into space, like this one emerging from the galaxy M87 about 50 million light-years away. Now scientists have seen the beginnings of such a jet from a galaxy billions of light-years away.

Astronomers have caught their best look ever at blobs of hot gas fleeing a supermassive black hole, thanks to a new kind of cosmic magnifying glass.

Anthony Readhead of the Owens Valley Radio Observatory at Caltech and colleagues caught two small, hot bursts traveling away from a bright galaxy called J1415+1320 at near the speed of light. Although the galaxy is billions of light-years away and the blobs are tiny compared with the galaxy, it appears that a lucky alignment of stars may have created what’s called a gravitational lens, magnifying the galaxy and its environs.

“We’re peering right down into the core of the nucleus of this active galaxy,” Readhead says. “We think this is potentially a very powerful new window.” The researchers report their findings August 20 in two papers in the

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