It may have taken centuries to capture the first real image of a black hole, but it only took a few years for the follow-up. The New York Times reports that researchers at the Event Horizon telescope have published the most detailed image of a black hole to date. The updated snapshot of the hole in the galaxy Messier 87 shows it for the first time in polarized light, illustrating the behavior of magnetic fields (indicated by the lines you see here) at the very edge of the cosmic phenomenon.
The new visuals suggest these fields are strong enough to offer resistance to the highly magnetized gas on the event horizon, helping some of the gas escape the overwhelming gravity in the hole itself. The gas has to pass through these fields to fall into the hole, said Jason Dexter of the University of Colorado. The imagery also suggests that the jet derives its power from the rotational energy of the black hole, according to Michael Johnson, another contributor to Event Horizon.
The data also allows scientists to estimate that the black hole is a relatively small eater – it consumes “only” a thousandth of the solar mass each year.
You should see more information in the future. Although the EHT’s global telescope combination is limited, a future version is expected to be sufficiently capable of producing full-fledged videos of magnetic activity. It should show how magnetic fields extract energy from the black hole and further demystify one of the weirdest objects in the universe.