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The black gap Sagittarius A*, considered in polarised mild

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 might be producing a jet of high-energy materials, which astronomers have but to see.

The image was taken by a community of observatories world wide working as a single, large telescope, known as the Occasion Horizon Telescope (EHT). In 2022, it produced the primary picture of Sgr A*, revealing mild coming from whirling sizzling plasma set towards the darkish background of the black gap’s occasion horizon, the place mild can’t escape its excessive gravity.

Now, EHT researcher Ziri Younsi at College Faculty London and his colleagues have measured how this mild is polarised, or the orientation of its electromagnetic area, displaying the course and energy of the magnetic area round Sgr A*.

The picture is remarkably just like the magnetic area of M87*, the primary 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.

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 dearth of seen high-energy jets seen from Sgr A*. This absence has lengthy puzzled astronomers, however the truth that Sgr A* has a magnetic area like M87* means that there might be jets in our galaxy’s black gap, too.

“There’s this actually thrilling trace that there could also be some further construction,” says Younsi. “There is perhaps one thing happening 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, such because the Fermi bubbles, giant spheres of X-ray-producing plasma above and under the Milky Method.


In addition to revealing a possible hidden jet, the magnetic area’s properties may assist clear up different astrophysical mysteries, akin 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 supplies 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 photographs of Sgr A* with a bigger community of telescopes and extra superior tools, which is able to enhance their understanding of the character of the magnetic area and the way it is perhaps producing jets. The EHT will start these observations in April, though the information is more likely to take a number of years to course of.

With the ability to see the magnetic area of a supermassive black gap in such element is extremely uncommon, says Christine Done 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 might be that taking a look at each of them in better element may reveal variations that aren’t so obvious on the decision we will 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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