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Space contains black holes, which are regions with extremely strong gravity from which nothing can escape, not even light. Both science fiction readers and astronomers find these mysteries to be fascinating. We're getting a better idea of how black holes function thanks to the efforts of a global collaboration. Furthermore, the more we understand about them, the more the history of the Milky Way, our little galaxy, can be pieced together.

Although black holes were predicted by Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity in 1915, it wasn't until this century that we were able to see images of them. In 2019, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration released a picture taken in 2017 from direct observations of M 87*, the black hole in the Messier 87 galaxy. The first photos of Sagittarius A*, our nearby black hole (also known as Sgr A*, or Sagittarius A star) were published in 2022. Both of those pictures were created by listening to radio waves near the black holes' event horizons. Nonetheless, the EHT Collaboration benefits from new technological developments every year.

The fascinating magnetic field that seems to spiral out of our black hole was revealed by the first polarised image of it that was published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters last month. Through the study of Sgr A*'spolarised light waves, researchers can map the magnetic fields surrounding the black hole. This advancement provides fresh insight into the functioning of black holes. This polarised image is similar to an earlier polarised image of the M 87* black hole, which caught astronomers off guard. The magnetic fields surrounding both black holes seem to be similarly arranged and exhibit similar characteristics. This is significant because the sizes and environments of M 87* and Sgr A* differ greatly from one another. 

M 87* is 6.5 billion times larger than our Sun, whereas Sgr A* is only 4.3 million times larger. Sgr A* is only 27,000 light-years away from Earth, but because of its size difference from M 87*, which is 53.5 million light-years away, it was much more difficult to get an image of. Particles take exponentially longer to complete their whipping around M 87*, even though particles on their edges move at similar speeds. Notably, there is more gas and dust surrounding M 87*. The similar magnetic fields imply that all black holes are subject to the same physical processes, notwithstanding these differences.

It also implies that a jet, or strong outflow of energy, is present inside the black hole in the Milky Way. The universe's most energetic mechanism, a jet facilitates the formation of stars and galaxies by removing gas and dust. The discovery that Sgr A* most likely possesses a jet modifies our understanding of the origin of the Milky Way.

Of course, there is still a great deal to learn about the universe and our home galaxy. Every year, the EHT Collaboration's understanding of black holes is expanded thanks to technological advancements. Every telescope contributes to the "very long baseline interferometry" of the EHT Collaboration, an international consortium of astronomy programs and telescopes spanning from the South Pole to the Atacama desert.

To produce a more comprehensive image and function as an Earth-sized telescope, this interferometry uses data collected from all over the planet at various times and angles. The Collaboration is increasing the number of telescopes and bandwidth annually, giving astronomers access to more data. This month, it will be observing Sgr A* once more.

It is hoped that high-fidelity footage and multicoloured views of event horizons will be available in the next ten years. To increase the amount of EHT data, it may even be possible to add more space telescopes. It makes sense that only by uniting as a planet can we comprehend our role in the cosmos. After all, a black hole can't be escaped by national borders. 

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