XRays Help Astronomers Spot Spinning Black Holes in Space

first_img Spinning black holes are very similar to ocean whirlpools, except, they generate disks of heated dust and gas that illuminate in X-ray light instead of eddies of wind and water. Now, astronomers are trying to determine what drives these bizarre spinning black holes and what they are made of.Using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and chance alignments that span billions of light-years, astronomers have used a new technique to measure the spin of five supermassive black holes, according to a NASA press release. Oddly enough, the matter in one of the cosmic vortexes is circling around its black hole at greater than roughly 70 percent of the speed of light.The astronomers, which published a study on these spinning black holes in The Astrophysical Journal, used a natural phenomenon called gravitational lens, and with the right alignment, the bending of space-time by a large object, like a galaxy, can magnify and develop many images of a distant object.For their research, the astronomers leveraged the Chandra X-ray Observatory and gravitational lensing to analyze six quasars, which each consist of a supermassive black hole quickly consuming matter from a surrounding accretion disk. Gravitational lensing of the light from each quasar by an intervening galaxy has generated multiple images of each quasar (see the Chandra X-ray Observatory images above of four of the targets). In order to separate the lensed images of each quasar, the team applied the Chandra X-ray Observatory’s sharp imaging ability.The astronomers also took advantage of “microlensing,” which involves individual stars in the intervening, lensing galaxy providing more magnification of the light from the quasar. With higher magnification, a tinier region is generating the X-ray emission.Like whirlpools in the ocean, spinning black holes in space create swirling torrents around them, generating disks of gas & dust. Using @chandraxray data, astronomers are using a new technique to measure the spin of supermassive black holes. Get sucked in: https://t.co/XYW25OWtov pic.twitter.com/7STcQdZEoJ— NASA (@NASA) July 10, 2019Following this step, the astronomers applied the property that a spinning black hole is dragging space around with it and allows matter to swirl closer to the black hole than is possible for a non-spinning black hole. According to this property, a smaller emitting region corresponding to a compressed orbit means there will most likely be a rapidly spinning black hole.The study’s results demonstrated that one of the black holes, which was located in the lensed quasar dubbed the “Einstein Cross,” is almost spinning at the maximum rate possible. This matches up with the black hole’s event horizon, which is its point of no return, spinning at the speed of light, which is approximately 670 million miles per hour. Four other black holes in the sample are rapidly spinning, on average, at roughly half this maximum rate. Furthermore, the large distortions observed in the X-ray spectra of the quasars analyzed above suggest that the inner edge of the disk has to be close to the black holes, providing additional evidence that they’re spinning rapidly.More on Geek.com:Astronomers Discover 83 Supermassive Black Holes in the Early Universe Astronomers Propose New Method for Detecting Massive Black Holes Scientists Uncover New Hangout for Black Holes New Universe Map Reveals 300,000 Unknown GalaxiesOur Galactic Core Has Thousands of Black Holes Stay on targetlast_img