Black holes are some of the most fascinating activities in the universe. Every movie that has something to do with space will usually mention a black hole. Whether going through it is a shortcut to another galaxy, going close to it will bend time, or going anywhere near it will render everyone dead as it sucks the ship out of existence, it is clear that the science community and the movie industry find black holes pretty fascinating. A new innovation will allow us to discover even more about them in the future.
Many people are not aware of the projects that NASA is working on today or in the last few years. Let’s be honest, for some people NASA putting a man on the moon was the last notable thing that was done. That is far from true as the space company has put robots on Mars, sent a spacecraft to orbit Jupiter and report on its gravitational field, created the Hubble telescope, and much much more.
In 2010, NASA launched the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy known more commonly as SOFIA. SOFIA is like a Boeing 747 but with a modified door. This door is open and has a massive telescope pointing out. The telescope is able to look at planetary atmospheres, comets, and more. The telescope has recently been upgraded with something called a HAWC+ which is an improved High-Resolution Wideband Camera. This incredible piece of technology is able to measure the magnetic fields generated by black holes something that has never been capable before. It is already showing incredible results.
Within our galaxy, there is one black hole at the very center called Sagittarius A*. It is four million times larger than our sun. It has perplexed the scientific community for many years as it seems to behave very differently to other black holes that have been witnessed. This black hole appears to be a lot quieter. Scientists hypothesized whether the black hole was asleep, or possibly dying. In 2019 though it was spotted producing strong light flares, something that other black holes do regularly but that Sagittarius had not been doing.
These light flares are caused by the black hole coming in contact with a gas cloud or some other object. By pointing the HAWC+ at the black hole they were given an answer. The strange shape and enormous power of its magnetic field meant that any objects or gas clouds that came near it were usually sent spiraling around it, they could not get in contact. While the occasional one is able to slip through, the majority simply stay in orbit.
If two black holes ever come in contact with each other it can cause a light so bright that it is brighter than a trillion stars or brighter than our whole galaxy combined. On July 31, 2019, Nasa managed to capture footage of this taking place as they successfully predicted this event for the first time. It is clear that the work they are doing and the technology being produced is allowing them to look at space in new and more detailed ways.
One NASA representative has described the HAWC+ as a game-changer for space exploration as it will provide details on magnetic fields that they have never come close to witnessing before. NASA has clearly not been napping since it first landed on the moon. It has achieved many incredible things since then but it may be true that some of the most incredible things that it will ever achieve are just on the horizon. Could this be the era that the world falls in love with space exploration again?