Polarized light reveals new details in the first image of the black hole

Two years after unveiling the world’s first black hole image, an international team of collaborators from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) has released a stunning new image showing the black hole in polarized light.

With the updated image, viewers can see the bright magnetic fields surrounding the cosmic giant – located in the galaxy Messier 87 (M87) – with new details. The image also brings the scientific community one step closer to understanding the ability of the M87 galaxy to launch huge “energy jets from its core.”

“In in the same way that polarized sunglasses help us see better by reducing reflections and reflections from bright surfaces, astronomers can sharpen their vision of the region around a black hole by seeing how the light from there polarizes, ”EHT explained in a press release following the new image .

“In particular, polarization allows astronomers to map the magnetic field lines present at the inner edge of a black hole,” they continued.

Over 300 researchers collaborated on the EHT project. Their collective findings were published on Wednesday, March 24, in two separate papers in Astrophysical Journal.

The researchers explained that this was “the first time astronomers have been able to measure polarization, the signature of magnetic fields, so close to the edge of a black hole.”

EHT scientists discovered the first image of a black hole in April 2019. The image of a supermassive black hole, 55 million light-years from Earth, was a huge scientific breakthrough that promises to provide new information about the role these space giants played in shaping the universe.

Supermassive black hole M87 seen in a new light

The new image provides a different perspective of the black hole M87, with polarized light showing bright bands of light for the magnetic field of a celestial object.

“We now see the following crucial evidence to understand how magnetic fields behave around black holes and how activity in this very compact space of space can propel powerful jets that extend far beyond the galaxy,” said Monika Mościbrodzka, coordinator of the EHT polarimetry and professor at Radboud University in the Netherlands.

The “energy jets” launched from the M87 core extend at least 5,000 light-years from the center of the black hole, EHT says. Although most of the matter surrounding M87 falls into the event horizon, some surrounding particles explode far into space in a massive jet. This process has long remained a mystery to scientists.

The newly discovered image potentially sheds new light on these phenomena: the perspective of polarized light allows scientists to explore the region just outside the black hole in unprecedented detail, the researchers explain.

“This paper is a major milestone: the polarization of light carries information that allows us to better understand the physics behind the image we saw in April 2019, which was not possible before,” said Iván Martí-Vidal, EHT Polarimetry Working Group coordinator and researcher. in Spanish Universitat de València.

Investigation of the firing of ‘energetic jets’ with the M87

With their new discoveries, researchers believe the magnetized gas may be behind huge nozzles firing from the M87.

The fields at the edge of the black hole are strong enough to “pull off the hot gas and help it resist the attraction of gravity,” explained Jason Dexter, coordinator of the EHT theory working group and professor at the University of Colorado Boulder.

“Only gas that passes through the field can spiral into the event horizon,” Dexter continued.

The first image of a black hole ever, was discovered in 2019. Source: EHT

However, more research is needed: EHT researchers said future observations will allow them to better understand how the structure of the M87 magnetic field changes over time.

The first image of a black hole and a new image of polarized light were created thanks to eight telescopes connected together as part of an EHT collaboration, creating a virtual telescope the size of the Earth. The picture is also the result of years of perfecting “complex techniques” in data analysis, the researchers said.

However, they are only at the beginning of a project aimed at greatly expanding our understanding of the universe:

“Even now we are designing a next-generation EHT that will allow us to make the first films about the black hole,” said Sheperd Doeleman, CEO of EHT’s founders. “Follow us for a true black hole cinema.”