Milky Way’s Supermassive Black Hole Calmed by Magnetic Fields


You are bound to find a supermassive black hole at the center of most galaxies, including the Milky Way. The concerning part from this fact is that some galaxies have black holes that are incredibly active, feeding themselves with massive amounts of matter and launching potent radiation as a result.

Residents of the Milky Way can rest assured that the central black hole is keeping quite calm, as per new observations from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy or SOFIA. Scientists are receiving never-before-seen information regarding the singularity. They have discovered that a magnetic field might be influencing it.

These magnetic fields share a characteristic with black holes, as the forces cannot be seen with the naked eye, affect the course of charged particles, thus influencing the flow of matter in the universe.

The HAWC+ High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-Plus can observe polarized far-infrared light that is released by dust grains in space that aligns with magnetic fields. With the help of SOFIA camera lens, magnetic fields can be mapped and their strength judged. Joan Schmelz, an astrophysicist at NASA Ames Research Center, adds that “HAWC+ is a game-changer. This is one of the first instances where we can really see how magnetic fields and interstellar matter interact with each other.”

Milky Way’s Supermassive Black Hole Calmed by Magnetic Fields

SOFIA had previously discovered a ring of gas and dust around the supermassive black hole named Sagittarius A. However, and its new HAWC+ instrument has detected the magnetic field that envelops it for over 100.000 years.

HAWKC+ shows the magnetic field to have sufficient strength to limit the stream of dust and gas in the area of the black hole, thus calming its gravitational pull. Its influence is having the effect of creating an orbit around the event horizon, as opposed to launching matter directly into it.

Keeping the singularity stable and preventing the formation of new stars from the otherwise gathered matter. Darren Dowell, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says that “the spiral shape of the magnetic field channels the gas into an orbit around the black hole. TThis could explain why our black hole is quiet while others are active.”

The direction of the magnetic field has been discerned by combining mid-infrared and far infrared images taken by SOFIA’s cameras. These new observations may lead to learning how a supermassive black hole interacts with matter. This, in turn, would help to answer why Sagittarius A supermassive black hole is different than its counterparts from other galaxies.


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