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Twin jets pinpoint the heart of an active galaxy

Submitter: Robert Schulz
Description: An international team of astronomers including ASTRON have measured the magnetic field in the vicinity of a supermassive black hole and pinpointed its location in the nearby active galaxy NGC1052. This has been made possible with an observation of the Global mm-VLBI Array which operates at a high frequency of 86GHz and uses a network of radio telescopes in Europe, the USA and East Asia.

The bottom panel shows the two highly symmetric jets emanating from a compact, bright central feature of only 57 microarcseconds or 2 light-days in size. This marks the position of the black hole and the region, where the jets are initially formed (middle panel). Based on its high brightness, the magnetic field close to the black hole can reach values between 0.02 and 8.3 Tesla (top panel). Such strong values are consistent with theoretical models of jet launching through the extraction of magnetic energy from a rapidly spinning supermassive black hole. The combination of powerful twin jets and close proximity (only 60 million light years), makes NGC1052 an ideal target for future observations of nearby powerful galaxies in the new era of VLBI due to the availability of ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimetre Array.

The study is published in the recent issue of Astronomy & Astrophysics (A.-K. Baczko, R. Schulz, M. Kadler et al., 2016; http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/201527951 ; http://arxiv.org/abs/1605.07100 ) and a press release was issued by the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy http://www.mpifr-bonn.mpg.de/pressreleases/2016/10 )
Copyright: A.-K. Baczko et al. 2016, A&A, 593, A47
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