Electromagnetic radiation, such as X-rays and visible light, is made up of waves that travel in a variety of orientations. When light hits certain objects or substances they act as a filter, only allowing it to pass through if it has a particular orientation.
A common example of this is polarizing sunglasses, which only allow light with a vertical orientation through to the wearer's eyes, blocking all light with a horizontal orientation. Polarized light from around a black hole or neutron star has a different cause, arising from the effect of powerful magnetic and electric fields.
This means that the polarization of X-rays from around these objects can teach astrophysicists about the violent and chaotic conditions in their environments. One example of researchers using this phenomenon to great effect occurred earlier this year. headtopics.com
In April, a team of astronomers, including Assistant Professor at Radboud University, Netherlands, Monika Mościbrodzka, used the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) to catch an image of the supermassive black hole at the heart of Messier 87 (M87), 55 million light-years from Earth, in polarized light.
An image of the supermassive black hole at the heart of M87. A new telescope launched by NASA will examine polarized X-rays from around black holes and neutron stars.Event Horizon Telescope./ESORead more: Newsweek »
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