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Black Holes Spinning Near the Speed of Light

400_black_hole_2 We’ve dedicated a lot of attention to black holes of late, with rogue holes roaming the universe and other holes shooting energy at nearby galaxies. So it is not a surprise that the research keeps coming.

Supermassive black holes, according to new research, are approaching the speed of light. Nine galaxies were examined by NASA using the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and found each to contain black holes pumping out jets of gas in to the surrounding space.

"We think these monster black holes are spinning close to the limit set by Einstein's theory of relativity, which means that they can drag material around them at close to the speed of light," said Rodrigo Nemmen, the study's lead author.

Einstein’s theory of relativity suggests that spinning black holes would make the space around it rotate. The subsequent effects affecting the immediate region forces gas to spiral in towards the black hole. This influx of gas consequently creates a magnetic field that shoots inflowing gas back out as a jet, before it is lost within the hole itself.

Researchers have previously found that a higher accretion rate – the influx of gas falling in to a black hole – the greater the energy that is shot out. Leading theories within science also suggest that the same jets that are being shot out in to space, are also powering the rotation of the central black holes in galaxies.

"By comparing observations of massive elliptical galaxies with current theories of jet formation, we are able to get the spin of supermassive black holes," Nemmen said in a recent interview, as he described how his team ran computer simulations, comparing the results with Chandra’s observations.

We know that black holes cannot be seen, that’s something we learn very early on in life. They are discovered and monitored by the effects they have on the space around them, on the matter that disappears, and the matter that reappears.

The observed jet power from these nine black holes was huge, according to the Chandra observations. One black hole digested 10 Earth masses per month and, conversely, expelled 50 times the annual energy of our sun per second. It was these observations that allowed Nemmen and his colleagues to estimate that the spin rate of these black holes was approaching Einstein’s speed-of-light limit.

"Extremely fast spin might be very common for large black holes," said co-investigator Richard Bower of Durham University. "This might help us explain the source of these incredible jets that we see stretching for enormous distances across space."

Posted by Josh Hill.

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It was einstein who mentioned this 40 yrs ago, but in a different context listed here,

So what does this say about the mass of the black hole? Sorry, I'm rusty in Physics but I thought: 1) Apparent mass increases with speed. So if black holes are spinning at near the speed of light aren't the actual masses of black holes much smaller than we believed... and what does that say about missing matter in the universe, is there more gone? 2) For an object to travel at the speed of light it must be truly massless. Is this the way out of the above, matter (with mass) is swallowed by the black hole but it is broken down/converted into mostly massless particles in the process? Seems there'd be a sweet spot on the ratio of spin speed/true mass for black holes. Sorry if foolish questions.

You scraped this article off of and didn't even give them a link back or attribution. Or add anything interesting or different to the original article. People like you are the reason why I have grown to hate blogs.


Your statement is accurate that "Apparent mass increases with speed." However, the keyword being "apparent". Black holes spinning at close to speed of light would have the same mass as if it was not spinning. What you are talking about is energy, and not mass.

This is where the Einstein's famous equation kicks in. E=mc^2. The energy of the object increases with its speed. Its actual mass does not change. For example, a bullet falling from your desk and one fired from a gun both have the exact same mass. However, their energy would be totally different. You can easily catch the bullet that fell from the desk with you hand. I would not advise you to get in the path of a bullet fired from a gun. See my point? Both have the same mass. It is the energy that they have is different.

As for the missing mass. Here is the oversimplified explanation: When we count up all the known mass, it adds up to approximately four (4) percent of the mass of the universe. This approx. four percent includes all black holes, stars, planets, intergalactic gas, galaxies, quasars, etc. Basically, it includes all known matter (excluding dark matter and dark energy). We have not “seen” the dark matter. But we can observe its influence. An example would be that you cannot actually see the wind. However, a keen observer would be able to tell the effects of the wind. For example, you can see the leaves moves. The billboards sway slightly with the wind moves. So on and so forth. The point being, just because you cannot “see” something, does not mean that you cannot observe its effects.

Dark matter—whatever that may be—still influences gravity and warps space-time. Scientist may not know what this dark matter is. But they sure can observe its influence and measure its mass indirectly. The current leading theory about dark matter says that dark matter is really made up of WIMPs (Weakly Interactive Massive Particles). However, that is just one of many theories. No lab on this planet has been able create, capture or prove such particle even exists.

-Science Student


Jesse has a point. The non-relativistic mass would indeed be much lower than its gravitational mass if it was spinning at the speed of light.

If all black holes are spinning really fast, then we could indeed have a very large problem with existing theories. Our most massive objects were purely due to relativistic mass instead of actual matter.

As far as dark matter goes, I think considering it is impossible to interact with dark matter under many theories, I call BS.

There are a lot of other possibilites. The big bang could be wrong, incomplete, or misguided. Gravity could be doing something unexpected (extremely likely considering we have no idea what drives the force behind it). It might be due to a misunderstanding of GR... or a "ripple in space-time" (whatever that means)... Or it could be an effect of "ether" (if it exists).

All the premises I've heard thus far for "detecting dark matter" are akin to detecting subtle changes in gravity without any other corresponding effects. As far as I'm concerned, this would only amount to a detection of anamolous gravitational activity... not a mysterious form of matter.


I'm 11 so don't think much of me. I find the subject of black holes fasinating. If what scientist think is true, and matter entering a black hole could go to another universe. Then could'nt our wildest dreams come true were beings use special powers given to them at birh? If we could find a way of traveling black holes?

I know I'm being redicules here, but what if that could be what's behind a black hole?

Then I would punch you in the jugular.

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