A new study of supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies has found magnetic fields play an impressive role in the systems’ dynamics. In fact, in dozens of black holes surveyed, the magnetic field strength matched the force produced by the black holes’ powerful gravitational pull.
“This paper for the first time systematically measures the strength of magnetic fields near black holes,” says Alexander Tchekhovskoy, the Berkeley Lab researcher who helped interpret the observational data within the context of existing computational models. “This is important because we had no idea, and now we have evidence from not just one, not just two, but from 76 black holes.”
Tchekhovskoy says the new results mean theorists must re-evaluate their understanding of black-hole behavior. “The magnetic fields are strong enough to dramatically alter how gas falls into black holes and how gas produces outflows that we do observe, much stronger than what has usually been assumed,” he says. “We need to go back and look at our models once again.”
Surprisingly strong magnetic fields can match black holes’ pull: Long-neglected magnetic fields have an unexpected presence
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