Black holes rapidly spinning and twisting spacetime - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Black holes rapidly spinning and twisting spacetime

Posted: Updated:

By Elizabeth Landau

(CNN) - Scientists have been able to pin down the most accurate estimate yet for how fast a supermassive black hole is spinning. The answer is "fast": near the speed of light.

The black hole in question is more than 2 million miles across, with a surface traveling near the speed of light. It is at the center of spiral galaxy NGC 1365 and is the equivalent of about 2 million solar masses. Don't worry, this black hole not an imminent danger to us, given that it's in a galaxy 60 million light years away.

Two instruments helped make these measurements: NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton X-ray satellite. Scientists used these tools to detect high-energy X-rays to determine the black hole's spin. Although similar measurements have been attempted before, this is the first time scientists have been able to show that the spin rate can be calculated conclusively.

The findings are described in a new study in the journal Nature.

Astronomers found that the spin is at least 84% of the maximum value allowed by Einstein's general theory of relativity. In other words: Einstein was right, again.

"What's amazing in this observation is that we can see the warping and twisting of spacetime, the black hole distorting the very fabric of our universe," NuSTAR principal investigator Fiona Harrison of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena said at a press briefing Wednesday.

Harrison gave a mind-boggling illustration of what "distortion of spacetime" means: For this particular black hole, if you were standing near the event horizon - the point at which nothing can escape from a black hole - you would be turning around once every four minutes just to stand still.

You may agree with Harrison that "black holes are really weird."

Black holes are dense regions of space that have collapsed in on themselves to the point where not even light can escape the enormous gravitational pull. Still, they are some of the brightest objects in the universe because of the massive amounts of energy released when matter gets eaten by a black hole.

Around a black hole is an accretion disk, dust and gas that's being drawn into the black hole, constantly spiraling toward it. High-energy radiation shines out as the black hole compresses matter. Supermassive black holes in particular are found at the centers of galaxies, including our own Milky Way.

We still don't know how black holes came to be in the first place, but the first seeds were there "just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang," writes Christopher S. Reynolds of the Department of Astronomy and the Joint Space Science Institute at the University of Maryland, College Park, in an accompanying article in Nature.

Black holes common in early universe

What we know about how galaxies formed and evolved is closely tied to our understanding of these supermassive black holes, he writes. "The energy released by a growing supermassive black hole can be so powerful that it disrupts the normal growth of the host galaxy; in extreme cases, the AGN (active galactic nucleus) can terminate all subsequent growth of the galaxy."

Black holes start relatively small and get huge over time in one of two ways. They can just keep eating material that falls in; over time, mass accumulates. Or, when two galaxies collide, their black holes can merge into a bigger black hole.

"Measuring the spin is a way to understand how the black hole grew, and this in turn is linked to galaxy evolution," Guido Risaliti, lead study author and astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told CNN.

The "dream" is to perform these sorts of measurements on galaxies much further away, so that scientists could track the evolution of those structures, too, Risaliti said.

"In order to do this kind of analysis for hundreds of black holes in the very distant universe, we really need the next-generation observatory, a new observatory which would need to be built with much higher sensitivity," Risaliti said.

  • Local NewsMore>>

  • East Texas mother's bond set at $2 million dollars in daughter's death

    East Texas mother's bond set at $2 million dollars in daughter's death

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 1:30 PM EDT2014-07-22 17:30:22 GMT
    UPDATE: An East Texas mother's bond is now set at $2 million dollars. Stacie Marie Parsons was arraigned in the Henderson Co. jail this morning. She is charged with the capital murder of her 4 year old daughter.More >>
    UPDATE: An East Texas mother's bond is now set at $2 million dollars. Stacie Marie Parsons was arraigned in the Henderson Co. jail this morning. She is charged with the capital murder of her 4 year old daughter.More >>
  • ‘Operation Coyote’ targets human smuggling networks

    ‘Operation Coyote’ targets human smuggling networks

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 4:43 PM EDT2014-07-22 20:43:13 GMT
    photo: (ICE)photo: (ICE)
    WASHINGTON (KYTX) — In a news conference Tuesday, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, joined by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol and U.S. Deputy Attorney General announced the progress of ongoing enforcement efforts by ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Department of Justice to target human smuggling networks in the Rio Grande Valley.More >>
    WASHINGTON (KYTX) — In a news conference Tuesday, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, joined by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol and U.S. Deputy Attorney General announced the progress of ongoing enforcement efforts by ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Department of Justice to target human smuggling networks in the Rio Grande Valley.More >>
  • Yantis man indicted after admitting to having sex with 12-year-old girl on school playground

    Yantis man indicted after admitting to having sex with 12-year-old girl on school playground

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 4:05 PM EDT2014-07-22 20:05:14 GMT
    photo: Wood Co. Jailphoto: Wood Co. Jail
    QUITMAN (KYTX) – A Wood County Grand jury has indicted a Yantis man on child sex abuse charges.More >>
    QUITMAN (KYTX) – A Wood County Grand jury has indicted a Yantis man on child sex abuse charges.More >>
Powered by WorldNow

CBS19, MYTX & KCEB
2211 ESE Loop 323
Tyler, TX 75701
Phone (903) 581-2211
Fax (903) 581-5769

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KYTX. All Rights Reserved. Users of this site agree to the Terms of Service, Privacy Notice/Your California Privacy Rights, and Ad Choices.