X-rays reveal an extremely hot globe surrounding a black hole

Illustration of a black hole surrounded by very hot plasma next to its companion star.

Cygnus X-1 is one of the brightest system X-ray sources iIn the Milky Way, it consists of a black hole called Cygnus X-1 and its giant companion, a star packing 41 times the mass of our sun. Rsearchers recently He measured the polarization of those X-rays to better understand the geometry of the ultra-hot plasma in the Cygnus X-1 system.

Although nothing is visible outside the event horizon of any black hole, superheated matter usually surrounds the black hole. in At millions of degrees, this substance emits x-rays Provides information about the environment from which they came.

“Previous X-ray observations of black holes only measure the direction of arrival, arrival time and energy of X-rays from hot plasma spiraling toward black holes,” said Henric Krawczynski, a physicist at Washington University in St. Louis. Lead author at a university Release. IXPE also measures their linear polarization, which carries information about how X-rays are emittedAnd if and where matter is scattered near the black hole.”

A little bit of the The data came from The X-ray imaging explorer (IXPE) Expedition. IXPE is a satellite in Earth orbit It began in December 2021. The mission is scheduled to last for two years; Besides black holes, IXPE It investigates X-ray sources such as neutron stars, pulsars, nebulae, and supernova remnants.

Cassiopeia A supernova remnant, with IXPE data in purple.

The researchers combined IXPE observations with data from NASA’s NICER and NuSTAR X-ray Observatory to get a better idea of ​​where the plasma is around Cygnus X-1. they work is published Today in Science magazine.

They found that the plasma formed a disk perpendicular to the jets of material spewing out from either side of the black hole. The jets of the black hole are thought to consist of strong magnetic fields, which direct some very hot material from either side. Being in vast currents of energetic particles accelerated to nearly the speed of light.

If Sagittarius is A*, then the supermassive black hole is in the center The galaxy, has these planes, We won’t be able to see them. This is because the black hole is pointed directly at us.

The directions of the planes and the X-ray polarization of the system are aligned, indicating the search The team all play in The bright region near the black hole is associated with the formation of jets.

Moreover, the polarization of X-rays made The team suspects that The plane of the black hole may be out of alignment with Cygnus X-1 system aircraft. Previous evidence indicated that this can happen when a black hole forms By the violent death of the progenitor star.

An explosion of material from a dying star could give a newly formed black hole a birth kick, causing it to get out of alignment with the surrounding objects. Little MAXI J1820 + 720 . black holefor example, is out of alignment with the disk of material around it by about 40 degrees.

IXPE (and its X-ray observatories) will continue to reveal new aspects of black hole formation and evolution over time, giving us a complete picture of the diversity of these extremely dense and mysterious objects.

More: See: The first image of the central black hole in our galaxy

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