Photo credit: EHT Collaboration
Astronomers working on the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) have just released a new image new image showing the magnetic fields at the edge of the supermassive black hole M87*. It was captured by measuring the polarization of the light emitted by matter in the hot region around the black hole. This marks great progress in understanding just how powerful jets of radiation and matter are emitted by some black holes. Read more for a video and additional information.
Simply put, light becomes polarized when passed hrough certain filters, similar to the lenses of polarized sunglasses or when it is emitted in hot regions of space that are magnetized. Astronomers can get a clearer view of the region around the black hole by looking at how the light originating from there is polarized. More specifically, polarization enables astronomers to map the magnetic field lines present at the inner edge of the black hole.
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This work 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…unveiling this new polarised-light image required years of work due to the complex techniques involved in obtaining and analysing the data,” said Iván Martí-Vidal, also Coordinator of the EHT Polarimetry Working Group and GenT Distinguished Researcher at the Universitat de València, Spain.