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Black holes' magnetism surprisingly wimpy

Bringing some of the mysteries of the universe a little closer to home.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:42 pm

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 magnetic field 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.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:43 pm

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Credit: Michael McAleer/UF News

An illustration of a black hole.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:46 pm



NASA's Swift caught the onset of a rare X-ray outburst from a stellar-mass black hole in the binary system V404 Cygni. Astronomers around the world are watching the event. In this system, a stream of gas from a star much like the sun flows toward a 10 solar mass black hole. Instead of spiraling toward the black hole, the gas accumulates in an accretion disk around it. Every couple of decades, the disk switches into a state that sends the gas rushing inward, starting a new outburst.

 

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