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The Astrophysical Journal



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We present VLBI Space Observatory Programme (VSOP) observations of the gamma-ray blazar 3C 279 at 1.6 and 5 GHz made on 1998 January 9-10 with the HALCA satellite and ground arrays including the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). The combination of the VSOP and VLBA-only images at these two frequencies maps the jet structure on scales from 1 to 100 mas. On small angular scales the structure is dominated by the quasar core and the bright secondary component ``C4'' located 3 milliarcseconds from the core (at this epoch) at a position angle of -115°. On larger angular scales the structure is dominated by a jet extending to the southwest, which at the largest scale seen in these images connects with the smallest scale structure seen in VLA images. We have exploited two of the main strengths of VSOP: the ability to obtain matched-resolution images to ground-based images at higher frequencies and the ability to measure high brightness temperatures. A spectral index map was made by combining the VSOP 1.6 GHz image with a matched-resolution VLBA-only image at 5 GHz from our VSOP observation on the following day. The spectral index map shows the core to have a highly inverted spectrum, with some areas having a spectral index approaching the limiting value for synchrotron self-absorbed radiation of α=+2.5 (where S~ν). Gaussian model fits to the VSOP visibilities revealed high brightness temperatures (>1012 K) that are difficult to measure with ground-only arrays. An extensive error analysis was performed on the brightness temperature measurements. Most components did not have measurable brightness temperature upper limits, but lower limits were measured as high as 5×1012 K. This lower limit is significantly above both the nominal inverse Compton and equipartition brightness temperature limits. The derived Doppler factor, Lorentz factor, and angle to the line of sight in the case of the equipartition limit are at extreme ends of the ranges of expected values for EGRET blazars.