First Detection of Light From Behind a Black Hole
Stanford University astrophysicist Dan Wilkins has spotted the first detection of light from behind a black hole. Phys.Org reports: “Any light that goes into that black hole doesn’t come out, so we shouldn’t be able to see anything that’s behind the black hole,” said Wilkins, who is a research scientist at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. It is another strange characteristic of the black hole, however, that makes this observation possible. “The reason we can see that is because that black hole is warping space, bending light and twisting magnetic fields around itself,” Wilkins explained. The strange discovery, detailed in a paper published July 28 in Nature, is the first direct observation of light from 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 starting speculating about how the magnetic field might behave close to a black hole, they had no idea that one day we might have the techniques to observe this directly and see Einstein’s general theory of relativity in action,” said Roger Blandford, a co-author of the paper who is the Luke Blossom Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences and Stanford and SLAC professor of physics and particle physics.

The original motivation behind this research was to learn more about a mysterious feature of certain black holes, called a corona. Material falling into a supermassive black hole powers the brightest continuous sources of light in the universe, and as it does so, forms a corona around the black hole. This light — which is X-ray light — can be analyzed to map and characterize a black hole. […] As Wilkins took a closer look to investigate the origin of the flares, he saw a series of smaller flashes. These, the researchers determined, are the same X-ray flares but reflected from the back of the disk — a first glimpse at the far side of a black hole. […] The mission to characterize and understand coronas continues and will require more observation.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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