It’s a crazy old world out there, and there’s still so much left to discover as astronomers have found a supermassive black hole that spins at almost the speed of light.
The astronomers used cosmic alignments from billions of years, as well as X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra Observatory to measure how five fast supermassive black holes rotate on their axes, IFL Science reports.
Five quasars, which are galaxies with a supermassive black hole so active it shines all the stars around it, were observed in the study. The light doesn’t come from the black hole itself, because nothing escapes the black hole, but from the disk around it.
Once the disk gets heated up to scorching temperatures, it’s spun around at phenomenal speed.
According to reports in The Astrophysical Journal, the material in the disk of one of the quasars is being thrown at around 70 per cent of the speed of light. This could mean the black hole’s event horizon, which is the surface beyond which nothing can escape, must be moving at nearly the speed of light.
Meanwhile, the other four quasars were reported to be travelling at around half of this speed.
All five of the black holes are said to be between 160 and 500 times the size of the Sun, while their galaxies are said to be located between 9.8 billion and 10.9 billion light-years away from us on Earth.
The astronomers didn’t have an easy task in measuring the disks around the black hole, because any object of such size warps space-time. However, the bigger objects can bend the continuum so much they end up acting as lenses, which in simpler terms magnifies the light of things in its background.
Therefore, these particular quasars or objects are all gravitationally lensed by galaxies which are much closer to us. This is called ‘strong lensing’ and it often produces multiple images of the same object, the so-called Einstein Cross.
Even after the magnification, which comes in handy for astronomers, the researchers used something called microlensing, in which stars produce a magnification. Therefore, the team were able to see even more detail in the disks of material and producer a more accurate estimate of the rate at which the black holes are spinning.
It doesn’t get much more impressive than that.
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Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining the LADbible Group team in 2017.