The RadioAstron mission opened a new window on the universe. Using a network of radio telescopes on Earth and in space, astronomers have captured the most detailed view ever of a jet of plasma shooting from a supermassive black hole at the heart of a distant galaxy. The jet travels at nearly the speed of light and shows complex, twisted patterns near its source. A helical magnetic field is threaded to the jet and plays an important role in its formation.
These patterns challenge the standard theory that has been used for 40 years to explain how these jets form and change over time.
The findings are published in Nature Astronomy (26 October 2023, Antonio Fuentes et al., DOI: 10.1038/s41550-023-02105-7): The filamentary internal structure of the 3C 279 blazar jet. Read more here.
Image: © NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration; VLBA/Jorstad et al.; RadioAstron/Fuentes et al., entangled filaments in the blazar 3C 279. High resolution image of the relativistic jet in this source as observed by the RadioAstron program. The image reveals a complex structure within the jet with several parsec-scale filaments forming a helix shape. The array includes data from radio telescopes around the world and on Earth orbit, among them the 100-m Radio Telescope Effelsberg. Data were postprocessed at the correlator centre of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy.