Scientists Make New Discoveries About Powerful Black Hole Systems
Scientists have made groundbreaking discoveries about blazars, which are powerful black hole systems that emit jets of high-energy particles towards Earth. The findings were made possible by the IXPE (Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer), a NASA mission launched in December 2021.
The recent study focused on a blazar called Markarian 421, located in the Ursa Major constellation and approximately 400 million light-years away. By analyzing the particles in the jets and their movements, researchers revealed evidence of a helical structure in the magnetic field of Markarian 421, where particles are accelerated.
The IXPE’s X-ray polarimetry, which measures the polarization of X-ray light, provided valuable insights into the complex magnetic field geometry and particle acceleration in blazar jets. These jets can span millions of light-years and appear brighter than other objects in space due to their high energy and the Doppler effect.
For years, scientists have been puzzled by the physical processes and dynamics behind blazar jets. However, the observations made by the IXPE have shed new light on these phenomena. Surprisingly, the polarization angle of Markarian 421’s jet showed variability during three extended observations, with the polarization direction even rotating by nearly 180 degrees in just two days. This suggests the presence of shockwaves propagating along the spiraling magnetic fields inside the jet.
Further observations of Markarian 421 and other blazars are planned to better understand jet fluctuations and their frequency. Scientists involved in the research believe that the discoveries made with IXPE have marked an exciting time for the study of astrophysical jets.
The IXPE mission is a collaboration between NASA and the Italian Space Agency, with partners in 12 countries contributing to the research. In addition to IXPE, partner observatories in the United States, France, Japan, Spain, and Crete also observed Markarian 421 to gather complementary data.
These new insights into blazars will significantly contribute to our understanding of the universe and the powerful cosmic phenomena within it. The research conducted by the IXPE mission will undoubtedly pave the way for future breakthroughs in astrophysics.