In a groundbreaking discovery that bolsters Einstein’s theory of relativity, scientists have confirmed that the ‘monster’ black hole M87 is indeed spinning. This revelation not only reinforces our understanding of these cosmic enigmas, but also opens up new avenues for unraveling the mysteries of the universe.
Located 55 million light-years from Earth, M87 is a radio galaxy that houses a supermassive black hole at its center. This black hole is an astronomical titan, boasting a mass 6.5 billion times greater than our sun.
The first-ever direct evidence of a black hole spinning was found by studying powerful jets of energy emitted from this black hole, which was the first to be imaged by humanity.
NEWS🚨: 1st black hole imaged by humanity is confirmed to be spinning, study finds pic.twitter.com/soBt5Gb5U6
— Amazing Astronomy (@MAstronomers) September 29, 2023
Black holes are dense celestial bodies with a gravitational pull so strong that no form of radiation, including light, can escape them. They act as intense sources of gravity, absorbing dust and gas in their vicinity. The formation of black holes remains a subject of ongoing research.
Some astronomers theorize that they may form when a large cloud of gas, up to 100,000 times bigger than the Sun, collapses into a black hole. These ‘black hole seeds’ then merge to form much larger supermassive black holes, like the one at the center of M87.
The M87 black hole was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) four years ago. Initially described as a fuzzy orange ‘donut’, the image was later enhanced by artificial intelligence to reveal a ‘skinny ring.’
Dr. Kazuhiro Hada, of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and co-author of the study, stated that determining whether this black hole is spinning has been a central concern among scientists.
The elliptical galaxy Messier 87 (M87) is home to several trillion stars, a supermassive black hole, and approximately 15,000 globular star clusters. This makes it significantly larger than our Milky Way galaxy, which contains only a few hundred billion stars and about 150 globular clusters.
M87 is the dominant member of the neighboring Virgo cluster of galaxies, which comprises around 2,000 galaxies.
NEWS🚨: Astronomers discover the largest black hole ever and it can fit 30 billion suns. We found it with gravity and bent light pic.twitter.com/CzLTcTCpRW
— Amazing Astronomy (@MAstronomers) September 20, 2023
The most striking features of M87 are the blue jet near the center and the myriad of star-like globular clusters scattered throughout the image. The jet is a stream of material being ejected from M87’s core, powered by the black hole.
As gaseous material from the center of the galaxy accretes onto the black hole, the energy released produces a stream of subatomic particles that are accelerated to velocities near the speed of light.
Data from a global network of radio telescopes from 2000–2022 revealed that the jet appears to be swinging like a pendulum on an 11-year cycle. It was found to be wobbling around a central point at the edge of the black hole, much like a spinning top.
This discovery provides unequivocal evidence that the supermassive black hole in M87 is indeed spinning, thus enhancing our understanding of these cosmic giants.
This significant finding not only aligns with theoretical supercomputer simulations, but also fits with theoretical predictions made by Einstein in his theory of general relativity. Researchers hope this discovery can shed light on how black holes form and evolve into the behemoths we observe today.