New view of our galaxy’s black gap reveals a swirling magnetic discipline


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The black gap Sagittarius A*, considered in polarised gentle

European Southern Observatory (ESO)

That is the supermassive black gap on the centre of our galaxy as we’ve by no means seen it earlier than. The picture reveals the swirling magnetic fields round Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*) and hints that it could be producing a jet of high-energy materials, which astronomers have but to see.

The image was taken by a community of observatories around the globe working as a single, big telescope, known as the Occasion Horizon Telescope (EHT). In 2022, it produced the primary picture of Sgr A*, revealing gentle coming from whirling scorching plasma set in opposition to the darkish background of the black gap’s occasion horizon, the place gentle can’t escape its excessive gravity.

Now, EHT researcher Ziri Younsi at College School London and his colleagues have measured how this gentle is polarised, or the orientation of its electromagnetic discipline, exhibiting the route and power of the magnetic discipline round Sgr A*.

The picture is remarkably just like the magnetic discipline of M87*, the first black gap EHT studied. Provided that M87* is round 1500 occasions extra huge than Sgr A*, it means that supermassive black holes could have comparable constructions no matter their measurement, says Younsi.

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The 2 black holes imaged by the Occasion Horizon Telescope look surprisingly comparable

European Southern Observatory (ESO)

One main distinction between M87* and our galaxy’s black gap is the shortage of seen high-energy jets seen from Sgr A*. This absence has lengthy puzzled astronomers, however the truth that Sgr A* has a magnetic discipline like M87* means that there may very well be jets in our galaxy’s black gap, too.

“There’s this actually thrilling trace that there could also be some extra construction,” says Younsi. “There is perhaps one thing occurring that’s fairly thrilling within the centre of the galaxy, and I believe that these outcomes we’re going to wish to comply with up.”

This is able to make sense given different items of proof we see for a jet that will have existed way back in our galaxy’s historical past, corresponding to the Fermi bubbles, giant spheres of X-ray-producing plasma above and under the Milky Manner.

In addition to revealing a possible hidden jet, the magnetic discipline’s properties might assist remedy different astrophysical mysteries, corresponding to how particles like cosmic rays and neutrinos are accelerated to extraordinarily excessive energies, says Younsi. “The magnetic fields are the bedrock of all of this. Something which provides us extra perception into how black holes and magnetic fields work together is simply foundationally vital for astrophysics.”

Younsi and his colleagues hope to take extra pictures of Sgr A* with a bigger community of telescopes and extra superior tools, which can enhance their understanding of the character of the magnetic discipline and the way it is perhaps producing jets. The EHT will start these observations in April, though the info is more likely to take a number of years to course of.

With the ability to see the magnetic discipline of a supermassive black gap in such element is extremely uncommon, says Christine Completed at Durham College, UK. “Magnetic fields are a kind of issues in astrophysics, sort of like saying the tooth fairy arrived.” As for the similarities between M87* and Sag A*, it could be that each of them in higher element might reveal variations that aren’t so obvious on the decision we are able to see them at now, she says.

References: The Astrophysical Journal Letters, DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/ad2df0 & DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/ad2df1


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