When you do astronomy, you can’t blink, because the difference between a never-before-seen phenomenon and a normal day in the telescope can be as small as seeing weak X-rays turn into weaker X-rays for a brief moment. .
That’s what happened when astrophysicist Dan Wilkins noticed, while setting his telescopes on the supermassive black hole at the center of Galaxy I Zwicky, that after a normal series of powerful X-rays launched from the center, unexpected additional flashes of X-rays that were smaller, posterior, and of different “colors.”
What he was observing meant that astronomers were able to say something they love to say: It proved Einstein right … again.
The dimmest and different colored lights came from behind the black hole as the powerful X-ray burst reflected off the gases that orbit it, which are attracted by the magnetic and gravitational forces that combine space and time, which allows us to see them dimly.
“Any light that goes into that black hole doesn’t come out, so we shouldn’t be able to see anything behind the black hole,” said Wilkins, a research scientist at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford. in a sentence. “The reason we can see that is because that black hole is warping space, bending light and twisting magnetic fields around it.”
The discovery was made by the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton space telescopes and NASA’s NuSTAR, which captured the phenomenon in stages shown for easy understanding on the ESA website.
Einstein: dead and loving him
At 10 million times the mass of our sun, the supermassive black hole at the center of I Zwicky, 1,800 light-years from our solar system, is surrounded by a swirling cloud of gas and dust that continually crawls toward the black hole. like water that falls down a drain, called a crown.
The corona heats up to millions of degrees Kelvin as it rotates, creating disjointed magnetic fields that “twist into knots,” which eventually break. according to ESA.
This click creates a massive explosion of heat and energy, generating bursts of X-rays called “flares” that can sometimes last two and a half hours.
During this particular X-ray burst, Wilkins observed that light reflected off gas on the opposite side of the black hole from which telescopes were viewing it, which due to the curvature of space and time around it, changed the properties. and the colors. of X-rays.
The revelation that we can see light in different colors from opposite ends of the black hole led Wilkins and his team to believe that they could use them to create a color-coded 3D map of a black hole and its surroundings.
CBS reminds us that Einstein predicted the ability of black holes to deflect light in 1916, which together with the Image of the gates of hell 2019, the discovery of gravitational waves using LIGO in 2014, and the discovery that newborn black holes “ring out” means that Einstein, more than 50 years after his death, is still making correct predictions at a faster rate than most living astrophysicists.
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