Scientists confirm first black hole ever imaged is actually spinning

Published on Oct 10, 2023 at 3:47 PM (UTC+4)
by Amelia Jean Hershman-Jones

Last updated on Oct 10, 2023 at 3:48 PM (UTC+4)
Edited by Kate Bain

Scientists confirm first black hole ever imaged is actually spinning

A study has revealed that the first black hole ever imaged by the human race is actually spinning on an axis in new “unequivocal evidence”.

The black hole in question is 6.5 billion times the size of the Sun and located at the center of radio galaxy, M87.

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Scientists say they can tell that it’s spinning by measuring its “jet base”.

In layman’s terms, the “jet base” is where the black hole’s massive gravitational pull sucks in gas and dust – as well as light.

A small amount of particles that don’t fall into the black hole spew out from the black hole’s poles.

They show up as beams along the axis that measure thousands of light years across.

And this “jet base” appears to be swinging like a pendulum on a 11-year cycle, changing its directions by roughly 10 degrees. 

This revealed that the black hole was wobbling on its axis as it rotated – like a giant cosmic spinning top.

The Chinese scientists behind the discovery used 22 years’ worth of data dating back to the year 2000 to reach this conclusion.

Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters used more than 20 radio telescopes around the world to take images and reach their findings, which were published in the journal, Nature.

“We are thrilled by this significant finding,” CUI Yuzhu, a postdoctoral researcher at Zhejiang Lab, based in Hangzhou said.

“Since the misalignment between the black hole and the disk is relatively small and the precession period is around 11 years, accumulating high-resolution data tracing M87’s structure over two decades and thorough analysis are essential to obtain this achievement.”

While more research is needed to answer why it’s spinning, it’s thought that the black hole’s spin axis doesn’t perfectly align with the rotational axis of its accretion disk. 

The “accretion disk” is a ring of materials gradually spiralling into the black hole’s void to be consumed.

The misalignment between the rotating mass and the matter swirling around it causes “a significant impact on surrounding spacetime”.

This then affects the movement of nearby objects.

Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity calls this “frame-dragging”.

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Amelia Jean Hershman-Jones

London-based Amelia cut her journalistic teeth covering all things lifestyle, wellness and luxury in the UK capital. Fast-forward a decade and the experienced content creator and editor has put pen to paper for glossy magazines, busy newsrooms and coveted brands. When her OOO is on you can find her spending quality time with her young family, in the gym or exploring the city she loves.