A team of international scientists that includes a Canadian researcher said it has mapped, for the first time, the magnetic fields surrounding a black hole.
The Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration team produced an image that shows electromagnetic fields that look like a “crisp swirl” of light around the black hole as it appears in polarized light.
The discovery will help astrophysicists better understand black holes and their profound effects on galaxies, said Avery Broderick, one of the team’s researchers who works at Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ont.
“We’re watching this astrophysical drama, this twisting up of magnetic fields, building that spring at the bottom that’s going to launch this jet out into this large universe and rule the fates of galaxies,” Broderick said in an interview.
The polarized image allows researchers to learn more about the magnetic fields surrounding the black hole in the M87 galaxy, he said.
They believe the research helps its understanding of how magnetic fields allow the black hole to “eat” matter and eject powerful energetic jets.
Two years ago the same team released the first-ever image of a black hole.
The international collaboration is composed of more than 300 researchers who compiled the image from eight Earth-based telescopes positioned around the world.
The new image is part of two related papers published Wednesday in The Astrophysical Journal.
The scientists have been working on the new project the past two years, Broderick said, ensuring what they were seeing was, in fact, real.
He said he and his team devised a new radioimaging method that helped show the electromagnetic fields.
There were five other teams that were using different methods to show the polarization, some tried and true, others novel.
“All six of these achieved very similar results,” he said.
“Only when we have this kind of replication across this many teams that we feel confident we’re seeing something that’s really in the sky and not an artifact of our analysis.”
What the team produced is comparable, in a sense, to the old high school experiment where students drop iron filings around a magnet bar, he explained.
The filings will line up in a unique fashion around the poles and illustrate the invisible magnetic field.
“What we have shown is those magnetic fields are not random, not just angled up in random directions, but very much like that bar magnet,” said Broderick, who is also a professor at the University of Waterloo.
He said the teams produced four images between on April 5 and 11 in 2017.
“In some sense we have a polarized movie,” he said. “But the movie only has four frames.”
There is a difference between the first two images and the last two, he said.
“From the beginning of the week to the end of the week, the high polarization moves a bit,” Broderick said.
“That’s interesting — we don’t have a lot to say about it other than that’s interesting.”
The image researchers captured is not of the black hole closest to Earth, however, but of one at the centre of neighbouring galaxy Messier 87 that was easier to observe by telescope. It is about six billion times the mass of our sun and located about 53 million light years from Earth. One light-year is equal to 9.5 trillion kilometres.
“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, part of the team and a NASA Hubble Fellow at the Princeton Centre for Theoretical Science.
For Broderick, it’s not that different than building a fence.
“It’s a lot of work, a lot of sweat and frustration digging the post holes and screwing the whole thing together and making sure everything is plum, and while you’re doing that you’re focused on the mundane and onerous tasks,” he said.
“But then you get to step back when you’re finished and you have a nice looking fence that’s not too crooked and you feel an immense measure of pride and that’s where we are today.”
NASA clears Boeing Starliner for July 30th test flight to ISS – Yahoo Movies Canada
More than 18 months after its failed first attempt to make it to the International Space Station, Boeing’s Starliner is ready for a second shot. Following a flight readiness review, NASA is moving forward with the craft’s upcoming July 30th uncrewed orbital flight test. Unless there’s an unforeseen delay, the capsule will launch from the Space Force’s Cape Canaveral Station mounted on an Atlas V rocket at 2:53PM ET. Should NASA postpone the flight, it will again attempt to carry out the test on August 3rd at the earliest.
The purpose of the flight is for NASA to conduct an end-to-end test of Starliner’s capabilities. It wants to know if the capsule can handle every aspect of a trip to the ISS, including launch, docking as well as atmospheric re-entry. “[Orbital Flight Test-2] will provide valuable data that will help NASA certify Boeing’s crew transportation system to carry astronauts to and from the space station,” the agency said.
If the flight is a success, NASA will move forward with a crewed test of the Starliner. Steve Stich, commercial crew program manager at NASA, said that could happen “as soon as later this year.” Both Boeing and NASA have a lot invested in the viability of Starliner. For the aerospace company, its decision not to conduct an end-to-end test of the craft before its failed 2019 flight left the agency “surprised,” leading to questions about the project. Meanwhile, NASA is keen to have two capsules that can ferry its astronauts to the ISS. Right now, it’s limited to just SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. “It’s very important for the commercial crew program to have two space transportation systems,” Stich told reporters.
SpaceX lands NASA launch contract for mission to Jupiter's moon Europa – Euronews
By Steve Gorman
LOSANGELES – Elon Musk’s private rocket company SpaceX was awarded a $178 million launch services contract for NASA‘s first mission focusing on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa and whether it may host conditions suitable for life, the space agency said on Friday.
The Europa Clipper mission is due for blastoff in October 2024 on a Falcon Heavy rocket owned by Musk’s company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp, from NASA‘s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA said in a statement posted online.
The contract marked NASA‘s latest vote of confidence in the Hawthorne, California-based company, which has carried several cargo payloads and astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA in recent years.
In April, SpaceX was awarded a $2.9 billion contract to build the lunar lander spacecraft for the planned Artemis program that would carry NASA astronauts back to the moon for the first time since 1972.
But that contract was suspended after two rival space companies, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics Inc, protested against the SpaceX selection.
The company’s partly reusable 23-story Falcon Heavy, currently the most powerful operational space launch vehicle in the world, flew its first commercial payload into orbit in 2019.
NASA did not say what other companies may have bid on the Europa Clipper launch contract.
The probe is to conduct a detailed survey of the ice-covered Jovian satellite, which is a bit smaller than Earth’s moon and is a leading candidate in the search for life elsewhere in the solar system.
A bend in Europa’s magnetic field observed by NASA‘s Galileo spacecraft in 1997 appeared to have been caused by a geyser gushing through the moon’s frozen crust from a vast subsurface ocean, researchers concluded in 2018. Those findings supported other evidence of Europa plumes.
Among the Clipper mission’s objectives are to produce high-resolution images of Europa’s surface, determine its composition, look for signs of geologic activity, measure the thickness of its icy shell and determine the depth and salinity of its ocean, NASA said.
NASA’s Europa Clipper will fly on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy – The Verge
The Europa Clipper got the green light from NASA in 2015. It will fly by the moon 45 times, providing researchers with a tantalizing look at the icy world, believed to have an ocean lurking under its icy crust. The Clipper is equipped with instruments that will help scientists figure out if the moon could support life.
For years, the Clipper was legally obligated to launch on NASA’s long-delayed Space Launch System (SLS). But with the SLS perpetually delayed and over budget, NASA has urged Congress to consider allowing the Europa Clipper to fly commercial. Switching to another vehicle could save up to $1 billion, NASA’s inspector general said in 2019.
NASA got permission to consider commercial alternatives to the SLS in the 2021 budget, and started officially looking for a commercial alternative soon after.
The SLS has powerful allies in Congress, who have kept the costly program alive for years, even as it blew past budgets and deadlines. The first flight of the SLS was originally supposed to happen in 2017. That mission — launching an uncrewed trip around the Moon — has since been pushed to November 2021, and keeping to that new schedule remains “highly unlikely” according to NASA’s Office of Inspector General, a watchdog agency.
SpaceX first launched its Falcon Heavy rocket in 2018, and started flying satellites in 2019. Earlier this year, NASA selected the rocket as the ride to space for two parts of a planned space station orbiting the Moon.
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