University of Hertfordshire’s ‘radio pictures’ of a black hole

A QUEST by top scientists to discover the origins of stars and galaxies just after the Big Bang, has seen these fascinating photos taken.

Boffins at the University of Hertfordshire are part of a project which used a special telescope to produce ‘radio pictures’ of a black hole (the 3C196 quasar) in a distant galaxy.

They were taken last month with the LOFAR (Low Frequency Array) telescope, which is designed to ‘listen’ to the universe just above and below the FM radio band.

LOFAR allows astronomers to determine when the first stars in the universe were formed and how the universe evolved from these first objects.

Staff at the Hatfield uni’s Centre for Astrophysics Research are involved in the international project, which has a network of telescopes, each the size of football pitches, at Chilbolton in Hampshire, as well as in the Netherlands, Germany and France.

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Dr Martin Hardcastle is the UK science coordinator.

He said: “Nobody has ever seen this sort of image taken at these low radio frequencies before; it really is an impressive result, considering it was only last year we were building the LOFAR station at Chilbolton.

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“This is really just a taste of things to come: over the next few years, LOFAR will enable us to study how galaxies and black holes evolve over the history of the universe and begin to look into the Dark Ages when the first galaxies were just starting to form.”

The Sun’s activity will also be monitored by LOFAR, while it also studies planets like Jupiter, and understands more about lightning and geomagnetic storms.

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