The first light detection behind a black hole
Observe the flow of X-rays into the universe through the supermass Black hole At the center of the galaxy, 800 million light-years away, Stanford University astrophysicist Dan Wilkins noticed an interesting pattern. It detected many bright X-rays (interesting but unprecedented precedents) and the telescopes captured something unexpected: additional X-rays that were smaller, later, with different “colors” than the bright flames.
According to the theory, these echoes of light corresponded to X-rays reflected beyond a black hole, but even a basic understanding of black holes tells us that this is a strange place where light emanates.
said Wilkins, a researcher at the Stanford National Accelerator Laboratory and the SLAC Kavli Institute of Astrophysics and Cosmology. However, another strange feature of the black hole makes it noticeable. “The reason we can see this is because a black hole distorts space, bends light, and surrounds magnetic fields around it,” Wilkins explained.
A strange discovery described in a study published today (July 28, 2021) nature, This is the first direct observation of the light of a black hole, a scenario predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity but which has not yet been confirmed.
“Fifty years ago, when astrophysicists began to speculate about how a magnetic field would behave near a black hole, they had no idea that one day we might have ways to observe it directly and see the general theory of Einstein’s relativity in action, “he said. . . The co-author of the article, Roger Blandford, is Luke Blossom, a professor at the College of Humanities and a professor of physics and SLAC at Stanford University.
How do you see a black hole?
The initial motivation for this study was to learn more about the mysterious feature of black holes called crowns. The material that enters the supermassive black hole supplies the brightest continuous light sources in the universe and, in doing so, forms a halo around the black hole. This light (X-rays) can be analyzed to identify and characterize a black hole.
The basic theory of what constitutes a crown begins with the sliding of the gas into a black hole where its temperature rises to millions of degrees. At this temperature, the electrons separate from the atoms, forming magnetization plasma. Trapped in the powerful rotation of the black hole, the magnetic field bends so much above the black hole and rotates so much that it eventually disintegrates completely; the situation is so reminiscent of what happens around our sun that it took the name “crown”. .
“This magnetic field, which is restricted and captured near the black hole, heats everything around it and produces these high-energy electrons, which then produce X-rays,” Wilkins said.
As Wilkins looked closely at the origins of the flashes, he saw a series of smaller flashes. The researchers found that they are the same as X-ray missiles, but that they reflect them back From the disk: the first look at the end of the black hole.
“For several years I’ve been making theoretical predictions about how these echoes might sound to us,” Wilkins said. “I had already seen them develop the theory, so as soon as I saw them in the telescope’s observations, I was able to figure out the connection.”
The task of characterizing and understanding Huron continues and will need to be followed more. Part of this future will be the European Space Agency’s Athena X-ray Observatory (an advanced high-energy astrophysical telescope). As a member of the laboratory of Steve Allen, a professor of particle physics and astrophysics in physics and SLAC at Stanford University, Wilkins is helping to develop part of Athens ’wide-field imaging detector.
“It has a much larger mirror than ever on an X-ray telescope and this will allow us to get higher resolution images in a much shorter observation time,” Wilkins said. “So the picture we’re starting to get from the data will be much clearer with these new observatories.”
Reference: 2021 28 July nature.
DOI: 10.1038 / s41586-021-03667-0
The co-authors of this study are from St. Maria University (Canada), the Dutch Institute for Space Research (SRON), the University of Amsterdam and Penn State University.
He supported this work NASA NuSTAR and XMM-Newton guest observer programs, Kavli Fellowship at Stanford University and VM Willaman Endowment at Penn State University.