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Catching a Glimpse of a Black Hole's Fury - Windows to the Universe

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This picture, created by an artist, shows the area near a supermassive black hole where jet of particles flow in spirals. Research suggests this pattern is due to twisted magnetic fields.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of Marscher et al., Wolfgang Steffen, Cosmovision, NRAO/AUI/NSF

Catching a Glimpse of a Black Hole's Fury
News story originally written on April 23, 2008

With the help of some powerful telescopes, a team of scientists has been spying on a black hole. It is at the center of a galaxy 950 million light years away.

This is not just any black hole. This is a supermassive black hole. It is millions of times more massive than the Sun. Jets of charged particles flow from it.

How these charged particles work has been a mystery. To learn more about them, the team of scientists looked at an outburst of charged particles from a supermassive black hole with telescopes.

They found that the enormous jets of particles form coiling patterns. The scientists believe the coiling is because the particles flow through twisted magnetic fields that are close to the black hole.

Last modified May 8, 2008 by Lisa Gardiner.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF