Massive black hole’s spectacular spin ‘may rotate space around it’

Christopher Davidson
November 10, 2018

Black holes can absorb the surrounding mass and grow - eventually turning into supermassive black holes that can lie at the center of galaxies.

Scientists from the Indian Space Research Organization's AstroSat and NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory believe that the discovery of this black hole may add significantly to understanding how galaxies are formed in the universe. The overall system generates more than 10,000 times the power emitted by our sun.

A massive black hole is spinning so fast that it tests the limits of Einstein's theory of relativity and may rotate space around itself, according to a joint study by India's AstroSat and NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory.

Sudip Bhattacharyya, Associate Professor at TIFR said, 'The scientific measurement of the spin rate of the black hole, an extremely exotic but the simplest object of the universe, comes out to be close to the maximum possible value.

"Mass can be measured more easily as it has a long-range effect because of gravity as the black hole gets created".

However, the black hole, which was originally observed in 2016, is close to breaking this universal limit as it spirals at 90 percent of this speed.

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And the team believe this particular black hole is spinning nearly as fast as it's possible to do so.

Including the black hole discovered by the AstroSat, there are only five black holes that have accurately measured high spin rates.

The discovery of these "hidden" mergers gives more credence to the idea that galaxy collisions are one of the chief ways supermassive black holes grow, but it also marks a new understanding of what lies ahead for the Milky Way, which is now hurtling on a collision course with the Andromeda galaxy.

"Recent observations have shown that a black hole is likely to become heavily obscured behind merger-driven gas and dust, even in the early stages of the merger, when the galaxies are well separated".

The research, which was a joint effort between the US and India, has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

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