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What a ‘monster’ black hole was discovered doing that concerned scientists


After two decades of observations, a supermassive black hole at the center of a nearby galaxy was discovered spinning, bolstering Albert Einstein’s century-old theories of general relativity, an astrophysicist told Fox News. 

A black hole is a region in space where gravity is so strong that not even light can escape, according to NASA. After stitching together images from observatories across the Earth, scientists discovered the black hole’s jet — beams of particles emanating from the void’s axis – were moving, confirming that the mass was spinning, according to a Sept. 27 study published in the journal Nature.

“After the success of black hole imaging in this galaxy with the Event Horizon Telescope, whether this black hole is spinning or not has been a central concern among scientists,” said astrophysicist and study co-author Kazuhiro Hada from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. “Now anticipation has turned into certainty. This monster black hole is indeed spinning.”

The supermassive black hole resides about 55 million light-years away in the center of the nearby Messier 87 galaxy — also known as M87, according to the study. Scientists found the black hole’s jet moves in a predictable 11-year cycle, which over time allowed them to determine that the celestial formation spins.


A supermassive black hole at the center of a nearby galaxy was discovered spinning after two decades of observations.
Getty Images

“The only two properties that astrophysical black holes possess are mass and spin, and spin is notoriously challenging to measure,” Wystan Benbow, an astrophysicist for the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Fox News in a statement. “This discovery gives us further, independent evidence that the black hole in M87 is spinning.” 

“Proving that supermassive black holes spin would provide further evidence in support of Einstein’s theories of relativity,” Benbow added. “Independently confirming that they are spinning using a new technique places many important theories on much firmer footing.”

The black hole in M87 is 5.4 billion times larger than the sun and was the first void to be photographed, according to NASA.


Illustration of the event horizon of a black hole
The Sept. 27 study was published in the journal Nature.
Future Publishing via Getty Imag

Before this discovery, scientists only had some “circumstantial evidence for spinning black holes,” but now there is “smoking gun evidence for the black hole spin,” Igor Chilingaryan, an astronomer at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Fox News in an email. 

“There is a mechanism called the ‘Penrose process’ that allows one to extract energy from a spinning black hole — and now we know that it can in fact work in the Universe and not just on paper,” Chilingaryan continued.

Black holes are “everywhere,” and supermassive ones are at the center of almost every galaxy, Benbow told Fox News.

The recent discovery “will also give us insight into how black holes and their host galaxies co-evolve and how our universe came to have the large-scale structure that it does today,” he added. “In any case, this is an important milestone.”



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