Scientists working with the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration have unveiled new images revealing insights into the magnetic structure of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way.

Scientists unveiled the first image of Sgr A*—which is approximately 27,000 light-years away from Earth—in 2022, revealing that while the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole is more than a thousand times smaller and less massive than M87’s, it looks remarkably similar.

This made scientists wonder whether the two shared common traits outside of their looks. To find out, the team decided to study Sgr A* in polarized light. Previous studies of light around M87* revealed that the magnetic fields around the black hole giant allowed it to launch powerful jets of material back into the surrounding environment. Building on this work, the new images have revealed that the same may be true for Sgr A*.

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“What we’re seeing now is that there are strong, twisted, and organized magnetic fields near the black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy,” said Sara Issaoun, CfA NASA Hubble Fellowship Program Einstein Fellow, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) astrophysicist, and co-lead of the project.

“Along with Sgr A* having a strikingly similar polarization structure to that seen in the much larger and more powerful M87* black hole, we’ve learned that strong and ordered magnetic fields are critical to how black holes interact with the gas and matter around them.”

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