Have you ever heard of the word, “blazar”? Scientists call a black hole blazer when they are directly pointed toward the Earth.
There are many powerful supermassive black holes in the universe. These black holes send out strong jets of high-energy particles, which shine very brightly in the vastness of space.
This blog post is intended to uncover some of the crisp knowledge and background of Blazers. So, if you are also interested in knowing what they are all about, let’s start this blog!
A Mesmerizing Discovery Tells Us a Spiral Magnetic Field in Blazar Jet 400 Million Light-Years Away
NASA’s IXPE (Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer), which will be launched in December 2021, will help scientists figure out why particles in the jet move at such high speeds and energies. IXPE measures something called the polarization of X-ray light, which has to do with how electromagnetic waves are organized at X-ray frequencies.
This week, a group of astronomers from all over the world released new information from IXPE about a blazar called Markarian 421. Scientists were surprised to find that the magnetic field in the part of the jet where particles are being sped up has a spiral structure. This blazar is in the constellation Ursa Major, which is about 400 million light-years from Earth.
Now, you must be thinking what this blazer is capable of? and how this Blazer’s jet has a magnetic field that accelerates the particles around. To answer your queries, we have curated some valuable information.
Let’s Read About the Blazar Jet’s Enigmatic Magnetic Field and Particle Acceleration
“Markarian 421 is an old friend for high-energy astronomers,” said Italian Space Agency astrophysicist Laura Di Gesu, lead author of the new paper.
“We were sure the blazar would be a worthwhile target for IXPE, but its discoveries were beyond our best expectations, successfully demonstrating how X-ray polarimetry enriches our ability to probe the complex magnetic field geometry and particle acceleration in different regions of relativistic jets.”
The latest issue of Nature Astronomy has a new study about what the IXPE team found at Markarian 421.
Jets like the one coming from Markarian 421 can stretch for millions of light-years. They are especially bright because as particles get close to the speed of light, they give off a lot of energy and act in strange ways that Einstein predicted.
Blazar jets are extra bright because, just like an ambulance alarm gets louder as it gets closer, the light from a Blazar jet seems to get brighter as it moves toward us. Because of this, blazars can be brighter than all the stars in the galaxies they live in.
Aside from this, now we will jump on, and read about a common mystery of emission of IXPE’s X-ray, and see what is it capable of.
Can IXPE’s innovative X-ray solve the mysteries of blazar jets and their surprising helix shapes?
Scientists have been studying blazar jets for decades, but they still don’t fully understand the physical processes that cause them to move and emit jets. But IXPE’s innovative X-ray polarimetry, which measures the average direction of the electric field of light waves, gives them a view of these targets, their physical shape, and where their sources come from that has never been seen before.
Most research models of the flow of strong jets show a spiraling helix structure, which is similar to how human DNA is put together. Scientists did not expect, though, that the helix shape would have places where shocks speed up particles.
During three long views of Markarian 421 in May and June 2022, IXPE found that the angle of polarization changed in ways that surprised them.
Here we will be discussing that this blazar jet would have a 180-degree rotation!
Researchers found that Blazar Jets Possess 180-Degree Rotations
Herman Marshall, a research physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and a co-author of the paper, said:
“We had anticipated that the polarization direction might change but we thought large rotations would be rare, based on previous optical observations of many blazars,”
“So, we planned several observations of the blazar, with the first showing a constant polarization of 15%.”
He also said that it was strange that the first analysis of the IXPE data on polarization seemed to show that it dropped to zero between the first and second readings.
“Then we recognized that the polarization was actually about the same but its direction pulled a U-turn, rotating nearly 180 degrees in two days,”
“It then surprised us again during the third observation, which started a day later, to observe the direction of polarization continuing to rotate at the same rate.”
The magnetic rotation has been found, and studied, but would it come in handy in the future for scientific discoveries and inventions? LET’S FIND OUT!
Can IXPE’s Discoveries Assist on Magnetic Fields and Shockwaves in the Cosmos?
Even stranger was that optical, infrared, and radio readings taken at the same time didn’t show any change in stability or structure, even when the polarized X-ray emissions changed. This means that a shockwave might be moving through the jet along swirling magnetic fields.
Theories about Markarian 501, a second blazar seen by IXPE that led to a study released in late 2022, agree with the idea that a shockwave speeds up the particles in the jet. But the shock is more clearly caused by a spiral magnetic field on Markarian 421, which is its cousin.
Marshall, Di Gesu, and the rest of their team are eager to make more studies of Markarian 421 and other blazars to learn more about these jet fluctuations and how often they happen.
Di Gesu said:
“Thanks to IXPE, it’s an exciting time for studies of astrophysical jets,”
This is the common, and contributed mission of NASA-Italian Space Agency, and they have thanked each other too.
Global Collaboration in Space Exploration: Cosmic Mysteries with NASA-Italian Space Agency
IXPE is a partnership between NASA and the Italian Space Agency. Scientists and partners from 12 countries work together on this project. The Marshall Space Flight Center at NASA in Huntsville, Alabama, is in charge of IXPE. Ball Aerospace, which is based in Broomfield, Colorado, works with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder to run aircraft. Data from partner sites in the United States, France, Japan, Spain, and Crete were added to IXPE’s observations of Markarian 421.