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CM – Astrophysicists discover light behind a black hole

Astrophysicists from Stanford have reported the first detection of light behind a black hole. The detection of light fulfills a prediction of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The researchers observed a series of bright x-rays that were not unexpected. It was unexpected that the telescopes recorded additional X-ray flashes, which were later smaller and of different “colors” than the bright flares initially observed.

The researchers suspect that these glowing echoes match X-rays reflected from behind the black hole. Stanford University astrophysicist Dan Wilkins says that light that goes into a black hole doesn’t come out, so we shouldn’t see anything behind it. Walkins says the reason we can see the X-rays from behind is because the black hole distorts space, bends light, and rotates magnetic fields around itself.

This is the first direct observation of light behind a black hole, a scenario that has been predicted by general relativity but has never been confirmed until now. Observing light behind the black hole was not the aim of the research. The researchers’ original motivation was to learn more about a mysterious feature of some black holes called corona.

When material falls into a supermassive black hole, it creates some of the brightest continuous light sources in the universe. When the light is generated, it forms a corona around the black hole. Researchers find that the light is X-ray light and can be analyzed to map and characterize a black hole. The leading theory for what a corona is has to do with gas sliding into the black hole, where it overheats to millions of degrees.

At such a high temperature, electrons separate from their atoms and create a magnetized plasma. Due to the high gravity around the black hole, the magnetic fields bent so high above the black hole and swirl around itself so strongly that it eventually breaks. The magnetic field is bound and then snaps close to the black hole and heats everything around it, creating high-energy electrons that create X-rays. The black hole observations are ongoing and will use ESA’s X-ray observatory called Athena in the future


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