Event Horizon Telescope

New image will help scientists examine and understand the magnetic fields around black holes.

Remember the image on the left? Released in 2019 by the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration, it was the first-ever direct image of a black hole - 6.5bn times more massive than our sun and located 55m light years away in the galaxy M87. Or, rather, you can see a bright ring of super-hot gas surrounding the black hole. Black holes are the remnants of dead stars and they famously exert so much gravitational force that nothing, not even light, can escape their pull.

Now, the same team of scientists have released another picture of the same black hole - the one on the right above - but this time you can see the location of its magnetic fields. The astronomers created the image by analysing light that had been polarised as it was released into the hot, magnetised region of space around the black hole. (Polarised light vibrates in only a single direction, compared with normal light which vibrates in all random directions).

Why is this interesting? It will help scientists examine and understand the magnetic fields around black holes, which seem strong enough to push back against the immense gravitational pull and even stop some material from falling into the dead star.

Earlier this month, a new theory predicted that matter can travel to the future through black holes. Black holes are undoubtedly pretty weird but two recent papers say we don't understand how they work at all. They go against the previous theories that predict the centre of a black hole features a point of infinite density called a singularity. Instead, say the new papers, matter might be sucked into black holes and spat out later in the future somewhere else across the Universe. Time will tell!

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