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Q&A: Galaxies, Galaxy Clusters, AGN, and Quasars

Q:
Composite image of 3C273's jet
Composite Image of 3C273's Jet
There are numerous "objects" throughout the universe that exhibit "jets". How is it that they have tight diameters, and are directly opposite one another? It seems highly improbable (have you won the lottery lately' or twice?) that we here on earth could catch that beam out of this big universe.

A:
The theoretical understanding of the formation of jets still has a long way to go in explaining how jets can have such tight collimation. But, the answer likely has to do with magnetic fields and the rapid spin of material as it gets close to the black hole. From symmetry, it's not surprising that they're directly opposite each other.

Many observations of jets are made at oblique angles and don't require us to be looking down the barrel, so to speak. See this Chandra work on M87, for example:

http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2001/0134/

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