A magnetic field in the center of our galaxy could keep a supermassive black hole in check.
Supermass rich black holes exist in the center of most galaxies, and our Milky Way is no exception.
But many other galaxies have highly active black holes, which means that much material falls into them and emits high-energy radiation in this "feeding" process.
In comparison, the Milky Way's central black hole, known as Sagittarius A *, is relatively quiet.
NASA scientists believe that this is due to the strong magnetic field in the center of the Milky Way, which is strong enough to restrict the turbulent gas movement.
"When the magnetic field channels the gas into the black hole itself, the black hole is active because it's a lot of gas," NASA explains. 19659002] "However, if the magnetic field channels the gas into an orbit around the black hole, the black hole is still, because it does not absorb gas that would otherwise form new stars." has used a new instrument called HAWC + (High Resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-Plus) to visualize this magnetic field for the first time.
Magnetic fields are invisible forces, so they can not be imaged directly, but the HAWC + instrument detects polarized fields of far-infrared light emitted by celestial dust grains. These grains align perpendicular to magnetic fields.
From the results, astronomers can derive the form and infer the strength of the other invisible magnetic field, which contributes to the visualization of this fundamental natural force.
"The spiral shape of the magnetic field directs the gas into orbit around the black hole," said Darren Dowell, scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the HAWC + instrument and lead author of the study.
"This could explain why our black hole is quiet while others are active."