Compared to other supermassive black holes scattered throughout the universe, the one at the core of our galaxy is mysteriously dormant. And now NASA thinks it knows why.
A powerful magnetic field at the center of the Milky Way is oriented just right to keep our galaxy’s black hole, Sagittarius A*, from spewing high-energy radiation out into the cosmos or churning out the raw materials for new stars, according to a NASA press release. Other black holes’ magnetic fields funnel nearby gas straight into them, fueling the black holes and turning them into volatile cosmic furnaces.
NASA scientists used a new instrument called the “High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-Plus,” in SOFIA, an airborne observatory housed inside of a Boeing 747. The instrument gave NASA a look at 100,000 years’ worth of the magnetic field’s activity, per the press release.
“The spiral shape of the magnetic field channels the gas into an orbit around the black hole,” Darren Dowell, the NASA scientist who lead the new research, said in the release. “This could explain why our black hole is quiet while others are active.”
Until NASA gathered this data, scientists weren’t sure why Sagittarius A* was so tranquil compared to others in surrounding galaxies. Now it seems like our galaxy’s bizarre magnetic field may deserve credit.
READ MORE: Magnetic field may be keeping Milky Way’s black hole quiet [NASA Newsroom]
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