Astronomers see a big boom when a black hole’s magnetic field suddenly flips

Two hundred and thirty-six million light-years away, and therefore 236 million years ago, a strange and intense light burst from a distant astronomical object. The intergalactic rumble was detected here on Earth, where astronomers quickly found the flare was coming from a a supermassive black hole. A spontaneous reversal of the black hole’s magnetic poles could be the cause, according to the latest hypothesis, but the debate is far from settled.

Called simply 1ES 1927+654, the galaxy causing great commotion revolves around a a supermassive black hole millions or billions of times more massive than our sun. This is the case with most large galaxies, including ours, the Milky Way, which has its own supermassive black hole at its center and around which revolve the solar systems of the galaxy. Black holes have mind-boggling masses, causing space and time to warp around them. Light itself cannot escape the intense gravitational pull beyond a point of no return called the event horizon, making direct observation essentially impossible. Which astronomers can “observe” are the emissions of various forms of radiation, including visible light from the surrounding accretion disks of black holes, as well as gravitational waves that they could issue.

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A ball of superheated gas particles, known as the corona, has been identified as the source of the violent eruption of ultraviolet and visible light. Located in the black hole’s accretion disk – the assortment of normal matter that rapidly orbits black holes on the safe side of the event horizon – the corona would emit higher-energy X-ray particles under normal circumstances. . As the rare event unfolded from 2017 to 2021, the black hole’s X-rays disappeared completely while UV and visible light emissions reached levels astronomically higher than they normally would.

A reversal of magnetic fields, in which the north pole becomes the south pole and vice versa, is believed to be relatively common in the universe. Earth’s magnetic fields reverse about every million years, although these events are completely unpredictable.

“Rapid changes in visible and ultraviolet light have been observed in a few dozen galaxies similar to this one,” Dr Sibasish Laha said in a NASA press release. “But this event marks the first time we’ve seen X-rays completely fade away as other wavelengths brighten.”

Understanding why has been a point of contention ever since. A researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Laha, and an international team of experts offer a possible explanation. They linked the unusual changes in the accretion disk to a magnetic reversal in a paper recently accepted into The Astrophysical Journal. Another study author, Dr. Mitchell Begeleman, explained the rationale behind their conclusion.

“A magnetic reversal, where the north pole becomes south and vice versa, seems to fit observations better,” Begelman said in the press release. “The field initially weakens at the periphery of the accretion disk, causing greater heating and brightening in visible and UV light.”

Such a reversal of magnetic fields, in which the north pole becomes the south pole and vice versa, is believed to be relatively common in the universe. Earth’s magnetic fields are reversing about every million yearseven if these events are completely unpredictable.

In the ever-expanding cosmos, few celestial bodies escape our understanding as completely as black holes. We know that black holes have angular momentum, mass, and charge, but it’s unclear if other properties are discernible. Physicist Stephen Hawking held a bet of several decades with a duo of physicists whether or not black holes could leak any other information regarding their inner workings. In other words, the details of how a black hole’s internal magnetic field might flip are difficult to understand due to the lack of physical evidence available to predict how such an event would play out inside a black hole. black hole. Their properties often confuse scientists, lending intrigue to representations in popular culture and the media.

An alert from the Automated all-sky survey for supernovae in March 2018 is what prompted the discovery of this latest black hole oddity. Visible light 100 times brighter than normal from the distant galaxy warranted closer examination. Previous NASA funded data Asteroid Earth Impact Last Warning System showed that the drastic change began in late 2017. Rapidly forming on the galaxy, the satellites quickly revealed the origin of the eruption at the center of the galaxy.

The cause of the disturbance prompted a myriad of conclusions. A working hypothesis suggested that a star might have drifted too close to the black hole.


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An earlier interpretation of the eruption suggested it was triggered by a star that passed so close to the black hole that it was torn apart, disrupting the flow of gas,” said co-author Dr. Josefa Becerra González, adding that the duration of the event does not match this. previous conclusion.

As far-fetched as it may sound, scientists don’t just spit wildly. (In effect, It would not be the first time a star has passed the point of no return from a black hole.) Yet while the referenced 2019 paper predates the return to homeostasis in the distant galaxy, the new findings have benefited from a broader range of data available. from NASA Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and ESA (European Space Agency) Satellite XMM-Newton provided ample data to support a new analysis of UV and X-ray frequencies from the source of the disturbance, which supported the magnetic field reversal theory.

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