Research suggests that magnetic fields are the reason why some black holes gobble up material from outer space
The late great Stephen Hawking devoted much of his massive brain power to one thing: black holes. In fact, his theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation is often called Hawking radiation.
And after the scientist’s death in March, his words, set to an original score by Chariots of Fire composer Vangelis, were beamed into our nearest black hole, 1A 0620-00.
“I am very aware of the preciousness of time,” Hawking said in his space-bound message. “Seize the moment. Act now.
“One of the great revelations of the space age has been the perspective it has given humanity on ourselves. When we see the Earth from space, we see ourselves as a whole. We see the unity and not the divisions. It is such a simple image with a compelling message: one planet; one human race.
“We are here together and we must live together with tolerance and respect. We must become global citizens.
“Be brave. Be determined. Overcome the odds. It can be done.”
And now this.
Nasa and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array captured a giant eruption of X-ray light coming from the centre of a supermassive blackhole located in the Pegasus constellation, around 324 million light years away. Something that has literally never been seen before.
The results suggested that supermassive black holes send out beams of X-rays when their surrounding coronas - sources of extremely energetic particles - shoot, or launch, away from the black holes.
“This is the first time we have been able to link the launching of the corona to a flare,” said Dan Wilkins of Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada, at the time. “This will help us understand how supermassive black holes power some of the brightest objects in the universe.”
Scientists now think they’re understanding more and more about those mysterious black holes.
According to NASA, some black holes appear to be active, gobbling up material from their surroundings and launching jets at ultra-high speeds, while others are quiescent, even dormant.
So why are some black holes feasting and others starving? Recent observations from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, are shedding light on this question.
Data indicate that magnetic fields are the key, by trapping and confining dust near the center of an active galaxy and feeding material onto the supermassive black hole at its center.
“It’s always exciting to discover something completely new,” said Enrique Lopez-Rodriguez, a scientist at the SOFIA Science Center, and the lead author on the report of this new discovery.
(Images: Getty / Nasa)