(Feb. 26, 2018) -- A research team has published a new study lead by Pat Roche, professor of astrophysics at The University of Oxford, and Chris Packham, associate professor of physics and astronomy at The University of Texas at San Antonio. It reveals a new high resolution map of the magnetic field lines in gas and dust swirling around the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. The team created the map, which is the first of its kind, using the CanariCam infrared camera attached to the Gran Telescopio Canarias on the island of La Palma.
“This collaborative work is an exciting step forward in our collective efforts to gain a greater understanding of our own galaxy and the super-massive black hole at the center of it. It also demonstrates the importance of access to the largest telescopes using advanced cameras/techniques,” Packham said.
Black holes are objects with gravitational fields so strong that even light cannot escape their grasp. The center of almost every galaxy appears to host a black hole, including the Milky Way, where we live. Stars move around the black hole at speeds of up to 30 million kilometres an hour, indicating that it has a mass of at least a million times our Sun. Depending on how the material flows, some of it may eventually be captured and engulfed by the black hole.
Visible light from sources in the center of the Milky Way is blocked by clouds of gas and dust. Infrared light, as well as X-rays and radio, more freely passes through this obscuring material, so astronomers use this to see the region more clearly. CanariCam combines this with a polarising device, which preferentially filters light with the particular characteristics associated with magnetic fields.
“This work, in addition to its scientific relevance, is very important to the advancement of the Ph.D. physics and astronomy program here at UTSA, since it involves students in cutting edge research,” said Miguel Jose Yacaman, professor and Lutcher Brown Endowed Chair of the UTSA Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Centered on the supermassive black hole, the new infrared map covers a region about one light year on each side. The image shows the intensity of infrared light, and traces magnetic field lines within filaments of warm dust grains and hot gas, which appear here as thin lines reminiscent of brush strokes in a painting.
The filaments, several light years long, appear to meet close to the black hole and may indicate where orbits of streams of gas and dust converge. One prominent feature links some of the brightest stars in the center of the galaxy. Despite the strong winds flowing from these stars, the filaments remain in place, bound by the magnetic field within them. Elsewhere the magnetic field is less clearly aligned with the filaments.
The new observations give astronomers more detailed information on the relationship between the bright stars and the dusty filaments. The origin of the magnetic field in this region is not understood, but it is likely that a smaller magnetic field is stretched out as the filaments are elongated by the gravitational influence of the black hole and stars in the galactic center.
“Big telescopes like GTC, and instruments like CanariCam, deliver real results,” Roche said. “We’re now able to watch material race around a black hole 25,000 light years away, and for the first time see magnetic fields there in detail.”
UTSA is ranked among the top four universities in the nation under 50 years old, according to Times Higher Education.
Learn more about the UTSA Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Learn more about the University of Oxford Department of Physics.
Read Patrick Roche and Chris Packham’s study “The Magnetic Field in the central parsec of the Galaxy.”
UTSA invites you to participate in our community altar by RSVP to this event. You can also use this link to learn more about Día de Los Muertos:https://anendlessconnection.weebly.com/the-project.html.Student Union Window Lounge, Main Campus
October 28th celebrates National Immigrants Day. On this day, we gather to explore the diverse heritage of our nation’s social fabric. We dedicate this day to understanding how our nation was founded and built by immigrants. Our goal is for the UTSA family to recognize and celebrate how all immigrants, regardless of their citizenship status, contribute to our community through their resiliency and ingenuity.Multicultural Student Lounge, HSU 2.207, Main Campus
The COLFA Advanced Career Pathways Workshops are focused on connecting your education with your career aspirations and exploring your pathways to reach your goal.Mesquite Room, Student Union, 2.01.24, Main Campus
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Blueprints For Pangaea is hosting its first on-campus inventory event of the semester! Join us for a Halloween-themed afternoon where we'll inventory medical supplies while enjoying Halloween movies. By the end of the event, you will have positively impacted the health of hundreds of individuals. We require at least one hour of attendance and come dressed up because the best costumes will earn awards.Flawn Sciences Building, 3.02.02, Main Campus
Chris Villanueva and other jazz faculty will perform standards in this concert. More details to come. The Fall 2021 concert schedule is subject to change. Please continue to monitor our website and social media for updates. This concert will be live-streamed via the UTSA Music Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/UTSAMusic When:UTSA Recital Hall, Main Campus
UTSA Sustainability will have three courses of varying difficulty to accommodate different ages and abilities. There will a one mile walk on generally level surface to introduce you to the student run community garden, a longer walk with stairs and topo changes, and a five mile bike ride to introduce you to the Leon Greenway.Tito Bradshaw Bicycle Repair Shop Ximenes Ave, Main Campus
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