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Spiral magnetic fields observed around Milky Way's central black hole
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Spiral magnetic fields observed around Milky Way's central black hole
by Robert Schreiber
Berlin, Germany (SPX) Mar 28, 2024

In a groundbreaking study, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team has provided new insights into the complex environment surrounding the Milky Way's supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), located 27,000 light-years from Earth. This latest research unveils images of spiral magnetic fields encircling Sgr A*, a phenomenon previously observed in the larger M87* black hole, suggesting potential universal black hole behaviors.

The challenge of imaging Sgr A* in polarized light stems from the rapid orbiting of ionized gas around the black hole, necessitating advanced instrumentation and methodologies for capturing these fleeting moments. This recent effort builds upon prior observations of M87*, where magnetic fields were seen facilitating the ejection of material from the black hole, a process now believed to be analogous in Sgr A*.

Professor Luciano Rezzolla of Goethe University Frankfurt detailed the complexity of producing a polarization map, emphasizing the sophisticated comparison between observed data and extensive supercomputer simulations required to create these images. Such imagery, revealing the magnetic field's structure, marks a significant advancement in understanding black hole environments.

Geoffrey Bower from Academia Sinica's Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics highlighted the breakthrough in polarized imaging, overcoming challenges posed by Sgr A*'s rapid movement. This development allows researchers to delve deeper into the astrophysical processes occurring near black holes.

According to Angelo Ricarte, a Fellow at the Harvard Black Hole Initiative, polarized light imaging directly informs on the magnetic fields' configuration and the dynamics of gas and matter interaction with black holes. This method offers profound insights into the astrophysical properties and mechanisms at play.

The research team, including Sara Issaoun from the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard and Smithsonian and Mariafelicia De Laurentis from the University of Naples Federico II, found striking similarities in the polarization structures of Sgr A* and M87*. These observations suggest a commonality in the processes that govern black hole feeding and jet formation, independent of their size or mass, refining theoretical models of black hole dynamics.

The EHT Collaboration, involving over 300 researchers globally, aims to achieve unprecedentedly detailed black hole imagery by linking telescopes worldwide into a virtual Earth-sized observatory. With plans to enhance the EHT's capabilities, future observations may yield high-fidelity movies of Sgr A*, uncover potential jets, and explore similar phenomena in other black holes. The collaborative effort represents a significant stride in the quest to understand the universe's most enigmatic objects.

The EHT's innovative approach has already expanded its network to include new telescopes, promising even sharper black hole images and the potential exploration of polarization features in additional celestial bodies. This ongoing project underscores the collaborative nature of astronomical research and the continuous pursuit of knowledge about our cosmos.

Research Report:EHT collaboration: First Sagittarius A* Event Horizon Telescope Results. VII. Polarization of the Ring.

Related Links
Event Horizon Telescope
Stellar Chemistry, The Universe And All Within It

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