The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration, which captured the first ever image of a black hole, today revealed a new view of the massive object in the center of Messier 87 (M87): what it looks like in polarized light.

On April 10, 2019, scientists published the first image of a black hole, which revealed a bright ring structure with a dark central region – the “shadow” of the black hole. Since then, the EHT collaboration has delved deeper into data collected in 2017 on a supermassive object in the heart of the galaxy M87. They found that much of the light around the black hole M87 is polarized.

Scientists were the first to measure the polarization, the signature of magnetic fields, so close to the edge of the M87h black hole. Observations are key to explaining how the galaxy M87, located 55 million light years from Earth, can launch energetic jets from its core. Details of the study are reported by the European Space Observatory (ESO).

Light becomes polarized when it passes through certain filters (such as the lenses of polarized sunglasses) or when it is emitted in hot regions of space where magnetic fields are present. In the same way that special glasses help the eyes work by reducing reflections and glare from bright surfaces, astronomers can improve their view of the area around a black hole by looking at how the light emanating from it is polarized. In particular, polarization allows astronomers to map the magnetic field lines present at the inner edge of a black hole.