A detailed new view of a black hole at the centre of the M87 galaxy, 55 million light-years from Earth, captured by Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration—an international team of radio astronomers—was released on Wednesday.
This is the first time astronomers have been able to measure polarisation, a signature of magnetic fields, this close to the edge of a black hole.
EHT scientists have mapped the magnetic fields around the black hole using polarized light waves. This breakthrough is a crucial step towards solving one of astronomy’s greatest mysteries.
On 10 April 2019, scientists released the first-ever image of a black hole, revealing a bright ring-like structure with a dark central region — the black hole’s shadow. Since then, the EHT collaboration has delved deeper into the data on the supermassive object at the heart of the M87 galaxy collected in 2017. They have discovered that a significant fraction of the light around the M87 black hole is polarised.
This black hole is 6.5 billion times as massive as the sun.
The new polarised image of the black hole looks like a black circle in the centre with glowing waves swirling around it.
“We are now seeing the next crucial piece of evidence to understand how magnetic fields behave around black holes, and how activity in this very compact region of space can drive powerful jets that extend far beyond the galaxy,” said Monika Mościbrodzka, Coordinator of the EHT Polarimetry Working Group and Assistant Professor at Radboud University in the Netherlands.
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