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International team observes innermost structu

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Image: The close-up view on the left is the deepest look yet at Quasar 3C 273’s plasma jet. The middle image shows the extended structure of the jet. The image on the right is a visible light image of the quasar taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The radio observations were made by the Global Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (GMVA), which is a combination of the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the High Sensitivity Array (HSA).
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Credits: Hiroki Okino and Kazunori Akiyama. GMVA+ALMA and HSA images: Okino et al.; HST images: ESA/Hubble & NASA

An international team of scientists used a network of radio telescopes around the world to observe the constriction of a quasar jet for the first time. This result suggests that jet narrowing is independent of the activity level of the jet-launching galaxy.

At the center of almost every galaxy is a supermassive black hole. In some cases, the gas falling toward the black hole releases enormous amounts of energy, creating phenomena known as quasars. Quasars emit narrow parallel jets of matter at nearly the speed of light. However, where and how the quasar jet is collimated has long been a mystery.

An international team led by Hiroki Okino, a graduate student at the University of Tokyo, and consisting of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Kogakuin University, National Institute of Technology, Hachinohe College, and Niigata University, has discovered that this is the bright quasar jet known as 3C 273. It shows the deepest part. The team found that jets emanating from quasars narrow over very long distances. This narrowing of the jet continues incredibly far beyond the gravitational domain of the black hole. The results show that the jet structure resembles jets launched from nearby galaxies with low-luminosity active nuclei. This indicates that the jet collimation is independent of the activity level of the host galaxy and provides important clues for elucidating the inner workings of the jet.

These results appeared as Okino et al. “Relativistic Jet Collimation in Quasar 3C 273,” The Astrophysical Journal, Nov. 21, 2022.


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