Light behind a black hole detected for the first time

A supermassive black hole is so dense that incoming light cannot go out again, but the detection of small X-ray flashes has allowed the first direct observation of the light behind these bodies, which once again gives the reason to Albert Einstein and his theory of general relativity.

A study published by Nature led by Stanford University (USA) explains that the detection of this light is possible because the black hole deforms space, bending the light and twisting the magnetic fields around it.

During the observation of the X-rays launched into the universe by a supermassive black hole located in the center of a galaxy 800 million light years away, astrophysicist Dan Wilkins identified an intriguing pattern.

These were additional x-ray flashes that were smaller, later, and of different “colors.” According to the theory, these light echoes were consistent with the X-rays reflected from behind the black hole, but this is a strange place for the light to come from.

“All the light that goes into that black hole doesn’t come out, so we shouldn’t be able to see anything behind the black hole,” Wilkins said. However, “the reason we can see that is because that black hole is warping space, bending light and twisting magnetic fields around it,” Wilkins explained.

This is the first direct observation of light behind a black hole, a scenario that was predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity, but never confirmed, until now.

“Fifty years ago, when astrophysicists began to speculate about how the magnetic field might behave near a black hole, they had no idea that one day we might have the techniques to directly observe it and see Einstein’s general theory of relativity in action, ”said Roger Blandford, also from Stanford University.

As the source of his research, Wilkins wanted to know more about a mysterious feature of certain black holes called a corona.

Material falling into a supermassive black hole powers the universe’s brightest continuous light sources and in doing so forms a corona, which begins as the gas slides into the black hole, where it is superheated until the electrons separate. of atoms, creating a magnetized plasma.

The mission to characterize and understand the crowns continues and will require more observations, which will be served by the X-ray observatory of the European Space Agency, Athena (Advanced Telescope for High-ENergy Astrophysics).

This new observatory will have a much larger mirror than is now available in any X-ray telescope, which will allow for higher resolution and shorter observation times.