1st black hole imaged by humanity is confirmed to be spinning, study finds

1st black hole imaged by humanity is confirmed to be spinning, study finds

Scientists believe the rotation of a black hole powers these cosmic jets, but until now there was no direct evidence.

Astronomers have found the first direct evidence of a black hole spinning. The observations provide new insights into the enigmatic celestial object and focus on the supermassive black hole at the centre of the neighbouring Messier 87 (M87) galaxy. On the lines of other supermassive black holes, M87, too, features powerful jets launched from the poles at close to the speed of light into intergalactic space.

Scientists believe the rotation of a black hole powers these cosmic jets, but until now there was no direct evidence. The black hole has been imaged by Event Horizon Telescope, The Guardian reported.

Dr Ru-Sen Lu, the lead author of the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, said that the scientific community knows jets are ejected from the region surrounding black holes. "But we still do not fully understand how this happens," Lu said, adding that, they needed to observe the origin of the jet as close as possible to the black hole.

M87, located 55 million light years from the Earth, harbours a black hole 6.5 billion times more massive than the Sun. Beyond the black hole is an accretion disk of gas and dust swirling on the precipice of the cosmic sinkhole. Some of this material, as per the scientists, will fall into the black hole and disappear forever. However, a small fraction will be ejected out from the poles of the black hole at more than 99.99% of the speed of light.

Research, published in Nature, used observations of M87 from a global network of radio telescopes from 2000 to 2022. Scientists noticed a recurring 11-year cycle in the jet, which was found to precess around a central point at the edge of the black hole. It indicated a misalignment between the black hole's spin axis and the accretion disk, leading the jet to move like a spinning top.

1st black hole imaged by humanity is confirmed to be spinning, study finds
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The first picture of a black hole was obtained back in 2019, according to US space agency NASA. The supermassive black hole, imaged by the Event Horizon Telescope, was said to be located in the centre of the elliptical galaxy M87, located about 55 million light-years from Earth.

What is a Black Hole?

NASA describes a black hole as a “dense, compact object whose gravitational pull is so strong (to a certain distance) that nothing can escape, not even light.” It is said that black holes are formed when massive stars collapse at the ends of their evolution. The gravity is extremely strong because matter (the mass) has been squeezed into a tiny space.

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