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Q&A: Black Holes

Q:
I was interested if Chandra is poised to look at the event horizon of black holes to determine if anything can be 'accelerated around them' my concern is not for supernovas to affect the Earth, I am more concerned about naturally occurring 'bullets' of electromagnetic pulse wandering around the solar system knocking planets magnetic axes around and frying semiconductor materials. Can Chandra see such magnetic storms if they exist?

A:
Chandra would see such electromagnetic pulses (if they exist), only if they produce X-rays. Chandra does see jets of extremely high-energy particles emanating from giant black holes in the centers of galaxies. These jets also have magnetic fields associated with them. Black holes produced by the collapse of massive stars might also produce such jets. Fortunately, we are a long way (30,000 light years) from the center of our galaxy (a weak jet producer), and far enough away (a few thousand light years) from stellar black holes for this to be a concern.

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