Science

Black hole monster could make a magnetic flip

A black hole could change its magnetic field right before our eyes.

The story begins with a galaxy known as 1ES 1927+654, which briefly stopped its X-ray emission for several months, and then it resumed and increased. At the moment, observations of potential black holes represent a unique situation, visible from a distance of 236 million light years.

“This event marks the first time we have seen X-rays disappear completely while other wavelengths become brighter,” study lead author Sibasish Laha, a research fellow at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the Goddard Space Flight Center NASA in Maryland. NASA said in a statement.

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According to the statement, if scientists can confirm that the outburst was due to the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy changing its magnetic field, the event could help astrophysicists understand how such a switch affects the black hole’s environment.

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Artistic depiction of a supermassive black hole in front of the outburst. (Image credit: NASA/Sonoma State University, Aurora Simonnet)

The Milky Way (and most other large galaxies like it) has a supermassive black hole at its heart; A black hole pulls matter towards its center. Matter first collects in an accretion disk surrounding the black hole, then heats up and emits light (in the visible, ultraviolet, and X-rays) as matter is pushed inward.

As this matter moves inward, it forms a cloud of extremely hot particles that scientists call the corona. A new study suggests that it was changes in the corona that caused the temporary disappearance of X-rays emanating from the heart of the galaxy 1ES 1927+654.

Artistic illustration of an accretion disk around a supermassive black hole embedded in a galaxy. (Image credit: DESY Science Communication Lab)

If there was a change in the magnetic field that caused the north pole to become south and vice versa, visible and ultraviolet light should increase towards the center of the galaxy due to more heating as the corona starts to shrink and the accretion disk becomes more compact. in the center.

But as the reversal progresses, the field weakens enough that the corona can no longer be supported, causing the X-ray emission to cease, the researchers suggested.

This idea is consistent with observations of this galaxy, as the X-ray emission reappeared in October 2018, about four months after it disappeared, suggesting that a magnetic field reversal has occurred. In the summer of 2021, the galaxy returned to pre-eruption X-rays.

UV and X-ray changes were tracked by two space telescopes, including NASA’s Neil Gerels Swift Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton satellite. Observations in visible light and radio were made from several ground-based telescopes in locations such as Italy, the Canary Islands, and New Mexico.

A paper based on the study has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal and is available on the arXiv.org preprint service.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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