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Measuring a Black Hole’s Spin

1 Mar 2013, 06:26 UTC
Measuring a Black Hole’s Spin
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NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton are two X-ray space telescopes that have teamed up to measure the spin of a 2 million solar mass supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy NGC1365. The observations were conducted simultaneously on July 2012 and provided the first ever definitive measurement of a supermassive black hole’s spin. In the region near the supermassive black hole in NGC1365, there is a pair of bipolar jets consisting of energetic particles that travel at very close to the speed of light. At the base of each jet, X-rays is produced which reflects off the surrounding accretion disk and makes the accretion disk observable in X-rays. By measuring how fast matter is swirling around the black hole in the inner region of the accretion disk, the spin rate of the black hole was determined.Figure 1: This artist’s concept illustrates a supermassive black hole with millions to billions times the mass of our sun. Supermassive black holes are enormously dense objects buried at the hearts of galaxies. Image credit: NASA/JPL-CaltechThe gravitational radius or the event horizon of a black hole is a region of space around a black hole where ...

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