Black holes' magnetism surprisingly wimpy

December 7, 2017 by Stephenie Livingston, University of Florida
An illustration of a black hole. Credit: Michael McAleer/UF News

Black holes are famous for their muscle: an intense gravitational pull known to gobble up entire stars and launch streams of matter into space at almost the speed of light.

It turns out the reality may not live up to the hype.

In a paper published today in the journal Science, University of Florida scientists have discovered these tears in the fabric of the universe have significantly weaker magnetic fields than previously thought.

A 40-mile-wide black hole 8,000 light years from Earth named V404 Cygni yielded the first precise measurements of the that surrounds the deepest wells of gravity in the universe. Study authors found the magnetic energy around the black hole is about 400 times lower than previous crude estimates.

The measurements bring scientists closer to understanding how black holes' magnetism works, deepening our knowledge of how matter behaves under the most extreme conditions—knowledge that could broaden the limits of nuclear fusion power and GPS systems.

The measurements also will help scientists solve the half-century-old mystery of how "jets" of particles traveling at nearly the speed of light shoot out of black holes' magnetic fields, while everything else is sucked into their abysses, said study co-author Stephen Eikenberry, a professor of astronomy in UF's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

"The question is, how do you do that?" Eikenberry said. "Our surprisingly low measurements will force new constraints on theoretical models that previously focused on accelerating and directing the jet flows. We weren't expecting this, so it changes much of what we thought we knew."

Study authors developed the measurements from data collected in 2015 during a black hole's rare outburst of jets. The event was observed through the lens mirror of the 34-foot Gran Telescopio Canarias, the world's largest telescope, co-owned by UF and located in Spain's Canary Islands, with the help of its UF-built infrared camera named CIRCE (Canarias InfraRed Camera Experiment).

Smaller jet-producing , like the one observed for the study, are the rock stars of galaxies. Their outbursts occur suddenly and are short-lived, said study lead author Yigit Dalilar and co-author Alan Garner, doctoral students in UF's astronomy department. The 2015 outbursts of V404 Cygni lasted only a couple of weeks. The previous time the same black hole had a similar episode was in 1989.

"To observe it was something that happens once or twice in one's career," Dalilar said. "This discovery puts us one step closer to understanding how the universe works."

Explore further: Scientists penetrate mystery of raging black hole beams

More information: Y. Dallilar el al., "A precise measurement of the magnetic field in the corona of the black hole binary V404 Cygni," Science (2017). science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi … 1126/science.aan0249

Related Stories

Robin Hood black holes steal from nebulae to make new stars

September 5, 2017

It's easy to picture a black hole as a kind of all-powerful cosmic drain, a sinkhole of super-strong gravity that snags and swallows passing nebulae or stars. While it is true we can't observe matter once it crosses a black ...

Astronomers see black hole raging red

March 17, 2016

Violent red flashes, lasting just fractions of a second, have been observed during one of the brightest black hole outbursts in recent years.

Recommended for you

HESS J1943+213 is an extreme blazar, study finds

June 21, 2018

An international group of astronomers have carried out multi-wavelength observations of HESS J1943+213 and found evidence supporting the hypothesis that this gamma-ray source is an extreme blazar. The finding is reported ...

'Red nuggets' are galactic gold for astronomers

June 21, 2018

About a decade ago, astronomers discovered a population of small, but massive galaxies called "red nuggets." A new study using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory indicates that black holes have squelched star formation in these ...

The Rosetta stone of active galactic nuclei deciphered

June 21, 2018

A galaxy with at least one active supermassive black hole – named OJ 287 – has caused many irritations and questions in the past. The emitted radiation of this object spans a wide range – from the radio up to the highest ...

20 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

cantdrive85
1.7 / 5 (12) Dec 07, 2017
The magnetic fields of these non-existent entities will also be non-existent. The measured magnetic field is obviously not non-existent however.
Chris_Reeve
Dec 07, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
mackita
5 / 5 (3) Dec 07, 2017
This finding doesn't come as so big surprise. Even black hole at the center of Milky Way exhibits remarkably unobtrusive behavior despite its estimated mass. Recently it even ignored cloud of interstellar gas which passed directly trough it. The main source of its disturbance would be just the magnetic field, which is somehow missing there.
Chris_Reeve
Dec 07, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (7) Dec 07, 2017
The paper, unfortunately, is closed access and there is no arXiv copy. Without a clear understanding of the methods by which they collected the data it's not clear whether they're talking about magnetics from the black hole itself or magnetics from the accretion disk currents. The article here does not make this clear. It's also not clear whether jets were being emitted at the time of the measurement. To add to the uncertainties, conditions could, and almost certainly do, change between times when there is a lot of matter falling into the accretion disk and when it is not. So while this is an interesting result, we need more information to decide what's going on here and to what extent it challenges current models of black hole accretion.
barakn
4.1 / 5 (9) Dec 07, 2017
I guess we should have expected Don Scott to say that because he's an idiot. Hawking radiation has nothing whatsoever to do with jets.
big_hairy_jimbo
3.5 / 5 (2) Dec 07, 2017
@Da Schneib, if we are to accept that light cannot escape a black hole, then the magnetism cannot be from the black hole itself, given light and magnetism are from the same LIGHT SPEED limited force. I do find it interesting that gravity can escape from black holes. Weird comment I know. Helps to suggest that gravity is curvature of Spacetime and perhaps not a force with a force carrying particle. I (like you Da Schneib) thought a black holes magnetism must originate outside of the event horizon and therefore from an accretion disk and it's rate of rotation. A WILD speculative Sci-Fi idea of mine, is that from time to time, a black hole emits radiation because it sucked something in from SOMEWHERE else. Yup SciFi concept that a black hole is a tunnel to some other place and is perhaps a bi-directional atom shredding "machine".
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (3) Dec 07, 2017
@jimbo, it's not clear to me at all that magnetism can't be produced by a black hole since one of the things a BH can have is electric charge. See Kerr-Newman and Reisser-Nordstrom black holes (Wikipedia discusses these equations and you can follow up to scholarly sources for more detailed information).

I make no comment (quite deliberately) on anything that happens inside an event horizon since I don't think we have the physics even to speculate with any serious possibility of being right.
Chris_Reeve
Dec 07, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Chris_Reeve
Dec 07, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Chris_Reeve
Dec 07, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
PoppaJ
1 / 5 (7) Dec 07, 2017
This was painful to read. Sooo some gold digging group of people got funding for this study? Then post a paper where they try to seem surprised about the obvious findings? How can you be surprised that a phenomena that light cannot escape from does not have a large detectable magnetic field? (rhetorical) Stop posting stupid studies that point out the obvious. Slap people who say stupid things. Slap the people who ok funding for stupid things.
somefingguy
5 / 5 (3) Dec 08, 2017
Slap people who say stupid things. Slap the people who ok funding for stupid things.


How the irony in your post went over your head, I'm not entirely sure.
I do hope that if you live in a country with free healthcare though, the doctors will turn you down if you have any serious illness; after all, we can't have people fund stupid things, right :)
milnik
1 / 5 (4) Dec 08, 2017
Why is there a discussion at all about the phenomenon that discourse and researchers do not know about? The black hole is not a phenomenon that is seen and imagined by researchers and most of the discussion participants.
The black hole is the place where matter is transformed back into the form of the substance AETHER from which matter forms. When matter forms from Aether, two important phenomena occur: gravity that gathers matter of criticality and critical mass and critical gravity (black hole), and magnetism that plays a role in forming: waves, light, heat, connection with Aether.
milnik
1 / 5 (3) Dec 08, 2017
In this measure, these researchers have found a true feature of the black hole, that is, magnetism is reduced there, only they do not know why.
Here is their answer: gravity overcomes magnetism and breaks down matter into ingredients, in turn; 3 kg of particles, free gluons, 3 kg of particles lose gluon, and gluons dissolve on electrons and positrons, and these are returned to the form of Aethera.
The fact that the BH magnetic field was measured is a consequence of the magnetism in BH being balanced with magnetism outside BH, since Aether also has electromagnetic properties.
Chris_Reeve
Dec 08, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
milnik
1 / 5 (2) Dec 08, 2017
Apparently you did not understand what I wrote. When forming matter, quark gluon plasma is first formed, which are 3kg of the particle (3 quarks and 3 bonds of gluon) and free gluon, which occurs by annihilation of an electron-positron pair. Behind this process are formed of celestial bodies from which the chemical elements are formed up to the clusters of the galaxies. If something is not clear we can discuss this in detail, of course, if you have the knowledge and interest for that.
I do not care much about the works of some "scientists" who have a high level of science, because their deposition denies the basic existence of someone who has to manage all the happenings in the universe. People who do not believe in this and can not find out anything about it! 1.
Chris_Reeve
Dec 08, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
mackita
not rated yet Dec 08, 2017
How can you be surprised that a phenomena that light cannot escape from does not have a large detectable magnetic field? (rhetorical)
The problem isn't not so simple, because many black holes (especially these ones forming so-called active galactic nuclei or AGN) have large and easily observable magnetic field.
milnik
1 / 5 (1) Dec 09, 2017
@CR,
To date, many high-renown scientists have produced many theory for phenomena that they did not know the origin or the way of creation and change. Today, science has no explanation as to how matter arises and from what it forms. The same applies to gravity, magnetism, energy, waves, heat and phenomena caused by their mutual relations. And in the end, they brought "final conclusions"
For example, this is about black holes, and science does not know how a black hole is produced and what its role is in the universe.
You know that everything that has been formed must disappear and reappear in some other form of action, but the matter created by AETHER must return to the eye of Aether, and this place is a black hole. This is a renewable process.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.