It may have taken years to capture the first real image of a black hole, but the tracking took only a couple of years. The New York Times reports that the Event Horizon Telescope researchers have released the most detailed image of a black hole to date. The updated snapshot of the hole in the galaxy Messier 87 shows it in polarized light for the first time, illustrating how magnetic fields (indicated by the lines you see here) behave at the very edge of the cosmic phenomenon.
The new images suggest that these fields are powerful enough to resist highly magnetized gas on the event horizon, helping some of the gas escape from crushing gravity into the hole itself. The gas has to slide through those fields to fall into the hole, said Jason Dexter of the University of Colorado. The images also suggest that the jet draws its energy from the rotational energy of the black hole, according to Michael Johnson, a contributor to Event Horizon.
The data also allow scientists to estimate that the black hole is a relatively modest eater: it “only” consumes one-thousandth of the Sun’s mass each year.
You should see more information in the future. While the EHT’s world telescope mix is limited, a future version should be capable enough to produce full videos of magnetic activity. That should show how magnetic fields extract energy from the black hole and further demystify one of the strangest objects in the universe.