By linking three radio telescopes, Astronomers make the sharpest-ever observation of a distant quasar. The observation, two million times finer than human vision, via a “telescopic collaboration” that’s never been seen before, starts a new era in astronomical observation. Artist’s impression of the quasar 3C 279. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser
Using the Hubble space telescope, astronomers have captured a direct image of the disk surrounding a black hole. Among the brightest objects in the sky, quasars are short-lived phenomena that only existed during the earliest eras of the universe.
This artist’s concept illustrates a quasar, or feeding black hole, similar to APM 08279+5255, where astronomers discovered huge amounts of water vapor. Gas and dust likely form a torus around the central black hole, with clouds of charged gas above and below. Image credit: NASA/ESA
A team of European astronomers has used ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) and a host of other telescopes to discover and study the most distant quasar found to date. This brilliant beacon, powered by a black hole with a mass two billion times that of the Sun, is by far the brightest object yet discovered in the early Universe. The results will appear in the 30 June 2011 issue of the journal Nature.