Black Holes and Their Overestimated Magnetism
Nothing escapes from black holes. Even light is absorbed by their powerful pull. Scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics estimate that the Milky Way contains a few hundred million black holes of varying sizes, and we learned that supermassive black holes surrounded by coronas are the largest type known to mankind. However, it turns out that early estimates of the strength of black holes were more inaccurate than scientists thought.
What Exactly are Black Holes?
After running out of fuel, stars collapse in on themselves, with larger stars having the potential to form black holes. They are small, but they’re incredibly dense. Imagine having three times the mass of our sun crammed into an area the size of Chicago. This density leads to an incredibly strong gravitational pull, gathering in space dust and gas. Once black holes form, this gravitational pull can allow them to grow even larger, reaching gargantuan proportions.
In A Galaxy Not-So-Far Away
About 8,000 light-years away from Earth, you’ll find V404 Cygni, a relatively small black hole at only 10 times the mass of our own sun. That might seem gigantic but it doesn’t seem that big when you think about the fact that black holes have the potential to reach millions or billions of solar masses.
A paper published by the Science journal by researchers at the University of Florida reveals these black holes might not be as strong as we originally assumed. V404 Cygni registered magnetic field strengths at 500 gauss, which was around 400 times weaker than originally estimated. For comparison’s sake, Earth’s magnetic field registers at .5 gauss.
Stephen Eikenberry of the University of Florida notes this revelation changes everything they thought they knew. “Our surprisingly low measurements will force new constraints on theoretical models that previously focused on strong magnetic fields accelerating and directing the jet flows,” Eikenberry says. “We weren't expecting this.”
While this discovery does create a lot of new questions, it could help scientists understand a 50-year-old mystery of how jets of particles are rocketed out of the black holes across the galaxy at nearly the speed of light.
The mystery of black holes is that much closer to being solved! Hopefully, eventually, we can reach a point where we fully understand them and have no further questions about their behavior and nature. Until then, keep up to speed by following along with our blog.