Creating some of the most powerful gravitational forces and fields in the universe, black holes are known for their extreme nature, including the ways in which they can devour and destroy whole planets and stars in a matter of seconds. When black holes consume planets, stars, and other cosmic objects, the matter from the collision between the two objects gets violently thrown around space — creating streams of particles traveling near the speed of light from black holes. These streams of particles are known as jets, and while scientists know that these jets can accelerate particles, known as cosmic rays, they know very little about the exact process by which the particles are accelerated.
Recently, a team of scientists utilized the X-ray capabilities of NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) observatory to investigate how cosmic rays within black hole jets are created. More specifically, the team investigated Stephenson and Sanduleak 433 (SS 433), a microquasar comprised of a black hole pulling in material from a nearby star.