June 16, 2024

Beyond Darkness: Revelation of Magnetic Fields Surrounding Milky Way’s Black Hole

2 min read
Strong magnetic fields surround Milky Way’s black hole – Science & Tech.

Astronomers have made a significant discovery regarding powerful magnetic fields swirling around the black hole located at the center of the Milky Way. The European Southern Observatory (ESO) recently released a new image from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) that revealed, for the first time in polarised light, a ring of magnetic fields surrounding Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the heart of our galaxy. These magnetic fields are said to be similar to those observed around M87*, the supermassive black hole at the core of the M87 Galaxy.

This finding suggests that strong magnetic fields may be common among all black holes. According to Sara Issaoun, a member of Harvard’s Center for Astrophysics and co-lead of the project, this new discovery shows the presence of strong, twisted, and organised magnetic fields near Sagittarius A*. These were made possible through polarised light images that allowed astronomers to isolate the magnetic field lines of the black hole.

Supermassive black holes are found at the center of galaxies and are significantly larger in mass compared to our Sun, with masses ranging from millions to billions of times greater. Despite their immense gravitational pull, nothing can escape them, making it impossible to observe them directly. However, with EHT capturing images of M87* in 2019 and Sagittarius A* in 2022, researchers were able to view their halo of light that forms due to inflow and outflow of matter and gas around these entities.

Angelo Ricarte, a member of Harvard’s Black Hole Initiative and co-lead of the project, highlighted how imaging polarised light emitted by hot gas surrounding these black holes allowed researchers to directly understand their structure and strength. Mariafelicia De Laurentis, deputy scientist at EHT and professor at University Naples Federico II in Italy added that this discovery suggests a universal characteristic among these systems.

In summary, this new discovery has provided us with insight into one more aspect about supermassive black holes’ nature: they possess strong magnetic fields similar to other known examples.

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