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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