For the first time ever, astronomers have observed a magnetic field surrounding and feeding a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy.

The researchers’ observations might shed light on the relationship between black holes and magnetic fields and why some black holes are more active and “hungry” than others. Whereas some supermassive black holes eat everything around them and shoot out high-speed jets, others lie quietly at the center of galaxies, sometimes even dormant.

The team used NASA’s flying telescope, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), to study the active galaxy Cygnus A, whose magnetic fields are trapping dust near the galaxy’s center and feeding the supermassive black hole.

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