Feeds

Quasar scrutineers use entire galaxy as telescope lens

Dr Boffin: 'We could spot loose change beyond Moon orbit'

Top three mobile application threats

A team of crafty astroboffins say they have managed to probe the guts of a quasar ten billion lightyears away - using nothing less than an entire galaxy as the main lens of their telescope.

Multiple images of a quasar produced by foreground galaxy gravity lens

The Einstein cross.

Quasars, as any fule kno, are mysterious objects found at the very fringes of the universe. They squirt out unfeasibly massive amounts of energy in a process thought to involve incredibly mega-huge black holes, but they are so very far away that it's difficult to get a proper look at them and work out exactly what's going on.

But a crowd of top quasar brains in Europe and America have now changed all that. To begin with, they tackled the problem using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) belonging to the European Southern Observatory - and there's a reason why the VLT isn't called the Not Particularly Big Telescope, if you get our drift.

But even the mighty VLT's largeness was not enough to magnify something ten billion lightyears off with any precision. A truly gigantic lens, larger than any the human race could hope to create, was going to be necessary.

Luckily, however, there was one in place already. There is a quasar which handily has another galaxy lying between it and our solar system. This foreground galaxy's colossal mass acts in effect as a gravitational lens, bending and magnifying the light emitted by the quasar lying beyond it.

In fact the galaxy also causes multiple images of the quasar to arrive at Earth, arranged in a rough X known to astronomers as "the Einstein cross" - the eminent physicist having predicted the gravitational lensing effect in his theory of general relativity.

"The combination of this natural magnification with the use of a big telescope provides us with the sharpest details ever obtained," says Frédéric Courbin, leading the quasar-probe push.

So sharp is the picture provide by the VLT and galacto-gaze combo, it offers resolution equivalent to one millionth of an arc second. According to a summary released by the splendidly-named Dr Henri Boffin of the ESO, such resolution would allow one to see a coin floating in space 13 times as far away as the Moon. Or it would if you didn't need the use of a galaxy a billion lightyears off, anyway.

There's more detail for those with the intellectual spectacles to see it here and here. ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
Liftoff! SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts Dragon on third resupply mission to ISS
SpaceX snaps smartly into one-second launch window
KILLER ROBOTS, DNA TAMPERING and PEEPING CYBORGS: the future looks bright!
Americans optimistic about technology despite being afraid of EVERYTHING
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
R.I.P. LADEE: Probe smashes into lunar surface at 3,600mph
Swan dive signs off successful science mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.