Black Holes

Magnetic Filaments: New Clues in Black Hole Mystery

Josh Habka
Jun 11, 2023
3 min read

A Cosmic Mystery: Magnetic Filaments Pointing Toward the Black Hole 🌌

Hello, fellow space enthusiasts! Today, we're going to take a fascinating journey into the heart of our very own Milky Way galaxy. We're about to delve into a mysterious cosmic phenomenon that has astronomers all around the world scratching their heads in wonder and amazement - the discovery of mysterious filaments that seem to point directly toward the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy! πŸ•΅οΈβ€β™€οΈπŸ”­

A Galactic Riddle: What are these Filaments? 🧩

For those of you who might be wondering, "What on Earth (or should I say, in the galaxy) are these filaments?" here's a quick rundown. These filaments are essentially gigantic, one-dimensional structures found near the central supermassive black hole of our Milky Way, known as Sagittarius A* or Sag A*. These filaments, first discovered in the early 1980s by astronomer Farhad Yusef-Zadeh of Northwestern University in Illinois, have been a topic of interest and intrigue for decades. However, a recent discovery has added a new twist to the tale.

Yusef-Zadeh has now spotted hundreds of these filaments along the galactic plane – like threads, visible at radio wavelengths – measuring some 5 to 10 light-years in length. Interestingly, these threads appear to spread out like spokes on a wheel from the black hole. This discovery was so unexpected that Yusef-Zadeh himself commented, "I was actually stunned when I saw these".

Vertical vs Horizontal Filaments: A Tale of Two Populations πŸ’«

Intriguingly, this new population of filaments or threads are much shorter than the ones first discovered by Yusef-Zadeh in the 1980s. The structures are believed to have originated a few million years ago as an outflow from our supermassive black hole interacted with surrounding materials. Yusef-Zadeh and his collaborators suggest that while the vertical filaments sweep through the galaxy, towering up to 150 light-years high, the horizontal filaments look more like the dots and dashes of Morse code, punctuating only one side of Sagittarius A*.

While both the vertical and horizontal populations comprise one-dimensional filaments that can be viewed with radio waves and appear to be tied to activities in the galactic center, their similarities end there. The vertical filaments are magnetic and relativistic, encompassing particles moving at speeds near the speed of light. The horizontal filaments, on the other hand, appear to emit thermal radiation and seem to accelerate thermal material in a molecular cloud.

The Role of Technology in Unraveling the Mystery πŸ“‘

This discovery wouldn't have been possible without the advancements in radio astronomy technology, particularly the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory’s (SARAO) MeerKAT telescope. To pinpoint the filaments, Yusef-Zadeh’s team used a technique to remove the background and smooth the noise from MeerKAT images in order to isolate the filaments from surrounding structures. Yusef-Zadeh credits the flood of new discoveries to this enhanced technology, stating, "The new MeerKAT observations have been a game changer"

A Journey of Discovery: What's Next? πŸš€

Despite the exciting discovery, we're only just beginning to understand the mystery of these filaments. Yusef-Zadeh has suggested that these filaments could provide valuable insights into the black hole's spin and accretion disk

orientation. As for the origins of these filaments, Yusef-Zadeh proposes that they might have been the result of an outflow from an activity that happened a few million years ago, interacting with objects near it. As he puts it, "Our work is never complete. We always need to make new observations and continually challenge our ideas and tighten up our analysis"

So, as we continue to gaze up at the stars, let's appreciate the vastness of the universe and the mysteries it continues to unfold. After all, every discovery leads us a step closer to understanding the cosmos. Until then, keep looking up! πŸ‘€πŸŒŒ

You can find the original research article titled "The population of the galactic center filaments: Position angle distribution reveal a degree-scale collimated outflow from Sgr A* along the galactic plane" in The Astrophysical Journal Letters/

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