Researchers have made magnetic fields visible near black holes

The first image of a black hole photographed by researchers caused a sensation in 2019: Now experts are taking a closer look at its magnetic fields.

The image shows the magnetic fields in the immediate vicinity of the black hole in Messier 87 (M87). Photo: EHT Collaboration / ESO (Image: dpa)
(Image: EHT Collaboration / ESO)

Bonn – About two years ago, researchers first published an image of a black hole.

They have now taken another step in investigating the gravitational monster in the distant galaxy Messier 87 (M87).

For the first time, magnetic fields in the immediate vicinity of a black hole can be detected and made visible, announced by the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn. “This is very important to us. This enables us to better understand how the luminous structures near a black hole are created, ”explained Anton Zonsos, director of the institute.

The data is again coming from the “Event Horizon Telescope” (EHT), for which scientists have linked several radio telescopes around the world. In 2019, EHT made the first image of a black hole – a science sensation. Since then, data analysis has continued. The EHT observations now show the first image of the magnetic field distribution in the bright ring around the so-called black hole shadow in the center of M87.

The key to this was provided by the observation that the radio radiation is polarized, that is, it has a non-random direction of oscillation. Astrophysicists consider polarized radiation a reliable indicator of the presence of magnetic fields.

Magnetic fields, in turn, play an important role in the formation of so-called puffs. The reason for this is that black holes absorb large amounts of matter. However, some of this material does not fall into the black hole, but is released into space as an extremely hot plasma. “If we map the immediate vicinity of the black hole and understand the magnetic fields, we can finally begin to understand how these jets are formed,” said Anton Zunsos. “We’re measuring something that’s going to be important to interpreting airplanes.”

In black holes, a mass from a few to several billion from the Sun is compressed into a very small region. Due to the sheer gravity, even light cannot escape from the immediate environment, hence the name. Black holes can arise, for example, when burning giants collapse under their own weight. The exact origin of the super-mass perforations as on the M87 has not yet been elucidated.

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 210324-99-953760 / 3

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Stan Shaw

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