Special update for the first image of a black hole

With new measurements of the first spotted black hole, astronomers have shown what a massive object looks like in polarized light.

After years of toil, astronomers from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project submitted their first image of a black hole in April 2019. This image, a milestone in astronomy, is becoming more and more interesting. Astronomers recently placed the massive object in a new light: polarized light. This is, according to Dutch researchers, among others The Astrophysical Journal LettersIt gives us an idea of ​​how powerful jets of matter can be blown into space by the incredible force of a black hole.

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The giant galaxy

The new measurements – just like the historical photo – were captured by the Event Horizon Telescope. The EHT consists of eight ground-based telescopes linked together, including ALMA in northern Chile. Together, these telescopes make observations in the same wavelength range.

EHT lenses closely observe the Messier 87 black hole – a giant, elliptical galaxy in the constellation Virgo. At its core is the black hole located 55 million light years from Earth and 6.5 billion times larger than our sun.


The updated image shows what a black hole looks like in polarized light. It is the first time that astronomers have seen a polarization very close to the edge ( Event horizon) For a black hole. Mapping this polarization is interesting because it tells astronomers a thing or two about the magnetic fields around a black hole.

Light becomes polarized when it passes through certain filters, such as the lenses of polarized sunglasses. Or, as in the case of the M87’s core, as it moves across hot strips of magnetized space. Much like how sunglasses help us see better by suppressing the bright and sometimes blinding reflections, the polarization in Messier’s heart helps astronomers see a clearer picture of the primary black hole.

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Using EHT to look at how light is polarized in the M87’s core, astronomers were able to image the magnetic field near the edge of the black hole cache inside it.

On the edge

Much of the matter in the vicinity of the black hole is at the edge due to the drag force: above the event horizon (or Event horizon). Any material that crosses these limits will not be able to escape from the black hole again. Part of the material does not pass through that edge and is blown into space as part of so-called planes. These powerful jets of energy and matter also blast from the M87 core – at least 5,000 light-years away.

Until recently, astronomers turned to models to understand this process. But thanks to polarized light and the magnetic field “map”, we get, for the first time, a direct look at what is happening at the edge of a black hole, as matter irreversibly falls off or explodes away.

The observations indicate that the magnetic fields at the edge of the black hole are strong enough to resist the drag and push the hot gas out. Astronomers write that only the gas sliding through the field passes Event horizon.

Resources: The Astrophysical Journal Letters 1And the 2And the Event Horizon TelescopeAnd the EurekAlert!

Bild: The Event Horizon Telescope

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