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First black hole photo gets an upgrade, revealing extreme magnetic fields – CNET

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An artist’s impression of the extreme environment at the center of galaxy Messier 87. A huge cosmic jet streams out of the central black hole.


ESO/M. Kornmesser

When the Event Horizon Telescope captured the very first image of a black hole at the center of the Messier 87 galaxy around 53 million light-years from Earth, astronomers and scientists were delighted. The breakthrough snap had unlocked a powerful new way to study the behemoth cosmic beasts and put some of the most interesting astrophysics theories to the test

The supermassive black hole at the center of Messer 87, dubbed M87*, has slowly been giving up its secrets as astrophysicists have combed through the huge amount of data generated by the EHT. On Wednesday, a few more secrets were unearthed as members of the EHT Collaboration reveal new images of the black hole in polarized light.

In a suite of new papers, the collaboration details new breakthrough images, which provide critical information about the magnetic fields immediately surrounding the black hole and those further from Messier 87’s chaotic center. It’s the first time a team has been able to measure polarization right up close to the edge of a black hole.

“The newly published polarized images are key to understanding how the magnetic field allows the black hole to ‘eat’ matter and launch powerful jets,” said Andrew Chael, an astrophysicist at the Princeton University Center for Theoretical Science and member of the EHT Collaboration.

But what exactly is polarization, and why does it matter?

Well, light is weird. It’s made up of electric and magnetic fields, vibrating in all sorts of directions. Polarized light is only vibrating in one direction. Most light is non-polarized when it leaves a star or the huge, bright disc of gas and debris around a black hole, but its interactions with dust and magnetic fields can cause it to polarize. Detecting polarization then provides a signature of the environment around a black hole like M87*. 

The first black hole image provided a kind of blurry Eye of Sauron, a ring of orange and yellow light around a black spot. The light emanates from a disc of debris and material immediately surrounding the invisible black hole. Some of this matter slips into the black hole, never to be seen again, but other material is blasted out at right angles, deep into space in what is known as a “cosmic jet.”

M87’s jet of matter is ejected at nearly the speed of light and extends almost 5,000 light-years into space. But how it forms remains a mystery.

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The first image of the black hole (left) and the new image, in polarized light (right).


EHT Collaboration

The new observations provide a potential explanation. 

“The observations suggest that the magnetic fields at the black hole’s edge are strong enough to push back on the hot gas and help it resist gravity’s pull,” according to Jason Dexter, an astrophysicist at the University of Colorado Boulder and coordinator of the EHT Theory Working group. “Only the gas that slips through the field can spiral inwards to the event horizon.”

The magnetic fields closest to the black hole may be so extreme that they’re blasting matter away from the edge and focusing it into the huge jet observed emanating from Messier 87.  

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This is the jet emanating from the center of Messier 87. The yellow lines in the image indicate the magnetic fields present in the jet, which extends around 6,000 light-years into space.


ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), Goddi et al.

The Event Horizon Telescope is not a single telescope, but a series of eight Earth-based telescopes located across the globe. It’s a “virtual telescope,” as big as the Earth, that captures the light escaping from around M87*, providing the kind of resolution required to resolve these features, even though it lies millions of light-years away. 

One particular telescope that forms part of the collaboration, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, also provided a stunning look at the black hole’s jet in polarized light, displaying the magnetic field lines (right).

It also observed Sgr A*, the black hole at the center of the Milky Way, and a dozen other supermassive black holes, finding that extremely bright beasts with jets pointing directly at the Earth (known as “blazars”) were very strongly polarized, which the researchers hypothesize is likely because of the direction they face.

The first image of a black hole wowed, but there are plenty more mysteries to be uncovered. The EHT will provide further opportunities to study the regions closest to M87* and Sgr A* as more observatories are added and the network is upgraded. 

“We expect future EHT observations to reveal more accurately the magnetic field structure around the black hole and to tell us more about the physics of the hot gas in this region,” said Jongho Park, an astrophysicist at Taipei’s Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics and member of the EHT collaboration.

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China launches second crewed mission to build space station

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China on Saturday launched a rocket carrying three astronauts – two men and one woman – to the core module of a future space station where they will live and work for six months, the longest orbit for Chinese astronauts.

A Long March-2F rocket carrying the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft, which means “Divine Vessel”, blasted off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern province of Gansu at 12:23 a.m. (1623 GMT on Friday).

The vessel successfully docked to the port of the space station on at 6:56 a.m. (2156 GMT), and the astronauts entered the space station’s core module at 10:03 a.m., the China Manned Space Agency said.

China began constructing the space station in April with the launch of Tianhe – the first and largest of the station’s three modules. Slightly bigger than a city bus, Tianhe will be the living quarters of the completed space station.

Shenzhou-13 is the second of four crewed missions needed to complete the space station by the end of 2022. During the first crewed mission https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/science/chinese-astronauts-return-after-90-day-mission-space-station-2021-09-17 that concluded in September, three other astronauts stayed on Tianhe for 90 days.

In the latest mission, astronauts will carry out tests of the key technologies and robotics on Tianhe needed to assemble the space station, verify onboard life support systems and conduct a host of scientific experiments.

The mission commander is Zhai Zhigang, 55, from China’s first batch of astronaut trainees in the late 1990s. Born to a rural family with six children, Zhai carried out China’s first spacewalk in 2008. Shenzhou-13 was his second space mission.

“The most challenging task will be the long-term stay in orbit for six months,” Zhai told a news conference on Thursday. “It will exact higher demands (on us), both physically and psychologically.”

He was accompanied by Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu, both 41.

Wang, also born to a rural family, is known among colleagues for her tenacity. The former air force pilot first travelled to space in 2013, to Tiangong-1, a prototype space lab.

She is China’s second female astronaut in space, following Liu Yang in 2012.

Shenzhou-13 is the first space mission for the third astronaut, Ye.

After the crew returns to Earth in April, China plans to deploy six more missions, including deliveries of the second and third space station modules and two final crewed missions.

China, barred by U.S. law from working with NASA and by extension on the International Space Station (ISS), has spent the past decade developing technologies to build its own.

With the ISS set to retire in a few years, China’s space station will become the only one in Earth’s orbit.

China’s space programme has come far since late leader Mao Zedong lamented that the country could not even launch a potato into space. China became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket, in October 2003, following the former Soviet Union and the United States.

(Reporting by Carlos Garcia and Xihao Jiang; additional reporting by Josh Horwitz; Writing by Ryan Woo; Editing by Nick Macfie and William Mallard)

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Meteorite found in B.C. could shed light on solar system's origin says physicist – Vancouver Sun

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Peter G. Brown, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Western Ontario, says the meteorite made its fiery way to Earth on Oct. 3, after spinning out of its orbit in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, nearly 180 million kilometres away.

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LONDON, Ont. — A small, angular rock that one Canadian physicist says looks like a chunk of black cheese has the potential to help scientists understand how the early solar system formed.

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Peter G. Brown, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Western Ontario, says the meteorite made its fiery way to Earth on Oct. 3, after spinning out of its orbit in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, nearly 180 million kilometres away.

It tore through the roof of a home in Golden, B.C., narrowly missing the head a sleeping woman.

Brown says the woman has loaned the rock to the university and, for the next month or so, it will become “a small piece of a larger puzzle” as scientists “disentangle how the early solar system formed.”

He says the 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite is older than anything on Earth but is formed of minerals found here, like iron and nickel, although in much larger proportions, giving it unusual weight for a rock its size.

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The exact chemistry is still being studied, but Brown says the findings will link the rock to specific asteroids spinning beyond Mars, while his goal is to use photos of the Oct. 3 fireball to compute the meteorite’s orbit, then merge the chemical and physical data to track the rock’s origin.

It will eventually be returned to the woman whose roof it punctured, but Brown says it will first have given scientists a peek at how the asteroid belt formed, how asteroids evolved and how all that played a role in the formation of the planets.

A hole from a meteorite that fell through the roof of Ruth Hamilton’s home.
A hole from a meteorite that fell through the roof of Ruth Hamilton’s home. Photo by Ruth Hamilton /THE CANADIAN PRESS

“This piece is sort of a primitive piece of the original material that formed in the early solar system,” Brown says in an interview from his office in London, Ont.

“The sheer quantity of information that’s hidden in the rock that we can tease out, in a lot of ways it’s like a really, really dense messenger of information about the early solar system.”

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The recovery of this meteorite and the associated photos of its fireball over southwestern Canada are fairly rare, Brown says.

It happens only once every five or ten years, but he says the data produced will be combined with similar events elsewhere in the world.

“We are building up a bigger statistical collection of these sorts of samples with spatial context but each one is unique, and it certainly makes the meteorite science a lot more valuable to know what the original orbit was of the object.”

“We learn a lot of new things about the solar system each time we do this,” Brown says.

Initial analysis of the meteorite could take a few weeks to a month, but more detailed examination “could go on for years,” he says.

  1. A meteorite rests on Ruth Hamilton's bed after it crashed through her ceiling while she slept on Oct. 4.

    B.C. woman nearly hit by meteorite that crashed through bedroom ceiling: ‘I’ve never been so scared in my life’

  2. This map shows the area where dozens of small meteors likely landed in and around Golden B.C. on Oct. 3.

    Golden B.C. residents asked to search for dozens of small meteorites in and around their town

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Meteorite Hits Canadian Woman's Home – Snopes.com

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A Canadian woman had an exceedingly unlikely experience when a meteorite smashed through her roof and landed on her bed during a meteor shower on the night of Oct. 3, 2021.

Ruth Hamilton, a resident of Golden, British Columbia, told Canadian news outlet CBC on Oct. 12 that she had been sleeping during the meteor shower, just before midnight, when her dog woke her up by barking. It seems that her dog saved her life.

“The next thing was just a huge explosion and debris all over my face,” Hamilton told CBC.

Hamilton told various news outlets that the rock crashed through her roof and landed on her pillow, where her head normally rests. She was unharmed.

“I just jumped up and turned on the light, I couldn’t figure out what the heck had happened,” she told Victoria News, adding that she then called 911 and with the help of local authorities, determined that the only place the rock could have come from was above.

“I’m just totally amazed over the fact that it is a star that came out of the sky, It’s maybe billions of years old,” Hamilton stated.

Peter Brown, Canada Research Chair at Ontario’s Western University, told The Golden Star newspaper that the chances of a meteorite landing on someone’s home were 100 billion to one.

“Every meteorite is older than the oldest rocks on earth,” Brown told the Sun. “If we can study them, we can learn about how planets in the solar system formed.”

The 2.8-pound rock that crashed into Hamilton’s home was identified as part of the Oct. 3 meteor shower by Alan Hildebrand, a planetary scientist at the University of Calgary.

Scientists are asking area residents to contact them and submit any videos or pieces of meteorites that landed on the ground during the event, which was highly visible in the night sky, per the Vancouver Sun. The Sun reported the path of the event “tracked through central and southern Alberta and southeastern B.C. before making landfall in Golden.”


Sources:

Palmer, Claire. “B.C. Woman Awakes to a Hole in Her Roof and a Space Rock on Her Pillow.” Victoria News, 8 Oct. 2021, https://www.vicnews.com/news/b-c-woman-awakes-to-a-hole-in-her-roof-and-a-space-rock-on-her-pillow/.

Carrigg, David. “Golden B.C. Residents Asked to Search for Dozens of Small Meteorites in and around Their Town.” Vancouver Sun, 13 October 2021, https://vancouversun.com/news/golden-b-c-residents-asked-to-search-for-dozens-of-small-meteorites-in-and-around-their-town.

CBC. “Woman Rocked Awake by Meteorite Chunk Crashing into Her Bedroom | CBC News.” 12 October 2021, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/meteorite-crashes-into-womans-bedroom-golden-bc-1.6207904.

Palmer, Claire. “Researcher Says Golden’s Meteor on the Pillow Was a 100 Billion to 1 Shot.” The Golden Star, 13 Oct. 2021, https://www.thegoldenstar.net/news/researcher-says-goldens-meteor-on-the-pillow-was-a-100-billion-to-1-shot/.

Neuman, Scott. “A Meteorite Crashes through a Home in Canada, Barely Missing a Woman’s Head.” NPR, 14 Oct. 2021. NPR, https://www.npr.org/2021/10/14/1045990641/meteorite-canada-british-columbia-bed.

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