Hiding in the heart of our galaxyspace monster. A supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A* sits at the center of the Milky Way, making it extremely difficult to observe. Scientists, however, succeeded - back in 2019 they were able to photograph Sagittarius A*. Note that we are not talking about ordinary photographs - in the picture we see the "shadow" of a black hole, the so-called event horizon. Most often, it is described as a point of no return, a kind of cosmic prison, from which even quanta of light itself are not able to escape. The gravitational force of Sagittarius A * attracts all objects nearby, and we can see their remnants in the picture. Recently, a team of researchers from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project published the results of observations of a black hole in our Galaxy. But what is especially interesting is that the object in the new image is very different from what was in the previous pictures.
Hunting space monsters
The very first picture of a black hole in a galaxyMessier 87 (M87) was published in 2019 and finally proved the existence of these space monsters. A team of scientists from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project has connected 11 radio telescopes on four continents into one huge radio interferometer, the colossal capabilities of which have changed our understanding of space and celestial objects. Just imagine how much new we will learn about the Universe in the coming years!
Recently, the EHT team reminded of itself by publishingnew image of the black hole at the center of our Galaxy. And this is a real breakthrough, because many astronomers believed that numerous attempts to capture this mysterious object were doomed to failure. The fact is that it is much easier for an observer from Earth to look at the center of nearby galaxies than to observe an object partially hidden from telescopes for years.
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More than 300 people worked on obtaining the imageresearchers from 80 research centers, but the new image looks familiar - the object in the image is similar to the image of a black hole in the heart of the M87 galaxy (published in 2019 by the same collaboration). However, there is a big difference between the objects.
So, Sagittarius A * is located at a distance of 53million light-years from Earth, and a black hole from the M87 galaxy - 30 million light-years more. The data obtained also point to differences between objects, and their comparison allows us to learn more about the properties of supermassive black holes - the most mysterious and exotic objects in the universe.
But despite the fact that for an observer from the Earththey seem the same, in reality the mass of M87* is 6 billion Suns, and the mass of Sagittarius A* is estimated at 3.7 ± 1.5 million solar masses. Now in the collection of space images of humanity are two "portraits" of black holes from two different galaxies.
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Milky Way heart shot
At a glance, the new image revealsimportant information about the center of our galaxy. Thanks to the data obtained, scientists have confirmed the fact of the rotation of the black hole and the matter surrounding it. Note that it is impossible to see the black hole itself in the picture, since it is absolutely black. Its existence is indicated by the glowing gas around the hole: the dark central region is surrounded by a bright ring-like structure.
As an astrophysicist told reporters fromStanford University Roger Blandford (who was not involved in the study) “Sagittarius A* is essentially starving, as there is not much matter orbiting around it (compared to the M87 black hole), which makes the object look rather dim.
Still the stuff revolves around Sagittarius A*so fast that the appearance of an object can change almost every minute. To get a picture of Sagittarius A *, the researchers had to face difficulties and spend a lot of time creating a new image. Recall that it took two whole years to collect and verify information about the M87 black hole, and the amount of data obtained is huge.
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Calm and strange black hole
Astronomers Call Sagittarius A* Unusually Calmobject. As a rule, black holes are extremely active and absorb a huge amount of gas and dust, which we see in the resulting images. However, the black hole at the center of our Galaxy periodically behaves strangely, putting on a fleeting show. So, on April 11 of this year, the NASA Chandra X-ray Observatory recorded a powerful flash of X-rays, the origin of which is currently unknown.
One of the reasons may be the interaction between the material of the accretion disk of a black hole and the magnetic field surrounding this celestial object. Under accretion disk scientists understand a large mass of attracted matter, which is heated to enormous temperatures.
Astronomers speculate that Sagittarius A*'s magnetic field acts as a barrier to prevent the black hole from absorbing large amounts of material, while magnetic lock causes gas and dust to accumulate in certain areas around the space monster.
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This accumulated voltage likely causes one of Sagittarius A*'s magnetic field lines to break temporarily, releasing energy into space and forming hot plasma bubble. This "bubble" is pierced by vertical magnetic fields and moves around the black hole in an equatorial orbit.
The resulting image probably showsa bunch of gas that orbits a black hole incredibly quickly - the “bubble” completes a complete revolution in just 70 minutes. This means that it is moving at a speed of about 30% of the speed of light, write the authors of a scientific paper, the text of which can be found in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
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In conclusion, we note that new observationsconfirm the magnetic origin of powerful flares and give an idea of the true shape of the Sagittarius A* magnetic field. The situation should become clearer in the very near future, when the EHT team will have a complete understanding of the nature of this amazing object. So we look forward to