Tue. May 21st, 2024

Astronomers have discovered the first direct evidence of a spinning black hole. The findings offer new insights into these mysterious celestial objects, specifically focusing on the supermassive black hole located at the center of the neighboring M87 galaxy. Similar to other supermassive black holes, M87 also exhibits powerful jets that are expelled from its poles at speeds close to that of light into intergalactic space.

Scientists have long believed that the rotation of a black hole is responsible for these cosmic jets, but until now, there has been no direct evidence to support this theory. The black hole in M87 has now been captured in images by the Event Horizon Telescope.

Lead author Dr. Ru-Sen Lu from the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory explains that the scientific community already knew that these jets were emitted from the area surrounding black holes. However, there was still a lack of complete understanding regarding the process behind this phenomenon. Lu adds that it was crucial to observe the origin of the jet as close to the black hole as possible.

M87 is situated 55 million light-years away from Earth and houses a black hole that is 6.5 billion times more massive than the Sun. Beyond the black hole lies an accretion disk comprised of gas and dust, swirling at the edge of this cosmic sinkhole. According to scientists, some of this material will be pulled into the black hole and vanish forever. However, a small fraction of it will be ejected from the black hole’s poles at speeds exceeding 99.99% of the speed of light.

The research, published in Nature, utilized observations of M87 spanning from 2000 to 2022, obtained using a global network of radio telescopes. Scientists observed an 11-year cycle in the jet’s behavior, indicating that it precessed around a central point at the edge of the black hole. This suggested a misalignment between the black hole’s spin axis and the accretion disk, causing the jet to move akin to a spinning top.

According to NASA, the first image of a black hole was obtained in 2019. The supermassive black hole, imaged by the Event Horizon Telescope, was located in the center of the elliptical galaxy M87, positioned approximately 55 million light-years away from Earth.

For clarification, NASA defines a black hole as a dense and compact object with an incredibly strong gravitational pull that nothing, not even light, can escape from up to a certain distance. Black holes are formed when massive stars collapse during the final stages of their evolution, resulting in an extreme concentration of mass within a minuscule space.

By admin