New science from NASA‘s brand-new NuStar space telescope and Europe’s XMM-Newton space telescope has proven that black holes don’t just sit there sucking matter into their wickedly heavy black cores: They also spin. In fact, they can spin almost at the speed of light.
Observations of the X-ray radiation spewing from the supermassive black hole at the center of the NGC 1365 spiral galaxy show it’s spinning at 670 million miles an hour, which is very close to the universe’s speed limit.
Spinning black hole cores had been a theory for some time, but this is the first concrete proof that they actually do. The data comes from the X-rays emitted by the swirling gasses that surround a hungry black hole, and the information will help us understand how black holes work.
If all this is just numbers to you then Monty Python’s famous song might help:
Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour,
That’s orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it’s reckoned,
A sun that is the source of all our power.
The idea that a super massive black hole, which may have billions of times the mass of our sun, can spin at 670 million miles an hour just makes black holes even more scary.
[Image: Flickr user badastronomy]