Astronomers Uncover First Direct Proof of Black Hole Spin, Focusing on M87 Galaxy’s Supermassive Black Hole
Scientists have obtained the inaugural direct evidence of a black hole’s rotation, ushering in fresh revelations about this enigmatic celestial entity. Their attention was fixed on the supermassive black hole residing at the core of the neighboring Messier 87 (M87) galaxy. In line with other supermassive black holes, M87 also exhibits potent jets that propel outward from its poles at nearly the speed of light.
Researchers believe that a black hole’s rotation fuels these cosmic jets, yet until now, tangible evidence remained elusive. The Event Horizon Telescope succeeded in capturing an image of this black hole, as reported by The Guardian.
Dr. Ru-Sen Lu, the lead author from the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, noted that the scientific community understands that jets emanate from the vicinity around black holes. However, the precise mechanism remains incompletely understood. Lu emphasized the importance of observing the jet’s origin as close to the black hole as possible.
Located 55 million light years away from Earth, M87 shelters a black hole 6.5 billion times more massive than the Sun. Surrounding the black hole is an accretion disk comprised of swirling gas and dust, situated perilously close to the cosmic abyss. According to scientists, some of this material will plunge into the black hole, vanishing forever, while a fraction will be ejected from the black hole’s poles at speeds exceeding 99.99% of the speed of light.
The research, published in the journal Nature, relied on observations of M87 collected from a global network of radio telescopes spanning from 2000 to 2022. Scientists discerned an 11-year recurring cycle in the jet’s behavior, as it gyrated around a central point at the periphery of the black hole. This indicated a misalignment between the black hole’s axis of rotation and the accretion disk, causing the jet to behave akin to a spinning top.
The initial image of a black hole was procured in 2019, according to NASA, the U.S. space agency. This supermassive black hole, captured by the Event Horizon Telescope, was situated at the core of the elliptical galaxy M87, positioned approximately 55 million light-years away from our planet.
What Constitutes a Black Hole?
NASA defines a black hole as a “dense, compact object whose gravitational pull is so formidable (within a specific distance) that nothing, not even light, can escape it.” These cosmic entities are believed to emerge when massive stars collapse during the final stages of their life cycles, resulting in an exceptionally strong gravitational force due to the compression of mass into a minuscule space.