A new study from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) suggests that the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy called Sagittarius A* (abbreviated as Sgr A*) is spinning so fast that it is warping space-time, that is, time and the three dimensions of space that make it look more like a soccer ball. These results were obtained using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the National Science Foundation’s Karl G Jansky Very Large Array (VLA).
Black holes have two fundamental properties: their spin (how fast they spin) and their mass (how much they weigh). By determining either of these two fundamental values, scientists know any black hole and how it behaves. Astronomers call this giant black hole Sagittarius A* and it is located about 26,000 light years from Earth, at the center of our Milky Way.
A team of researchers applied a new method that uses radio and X-ray data to calculate how fast Sgr A* rotates depending on how material flows to and from the black hole. They found Sgr A* They found that Sgr A* rotates with an angular velocity equal to the number of revolutions per second, which is about 60 percent of the maximum possible value, and an angular momentum of about 90 percent of the maximum possible value.
Previously, various other estimates of the rotation speed of Sagittarius A* were made by different astronomers using different techniques, with results ranging from Sagittarius A* not rotating at all to rotating at almost maximum speed. Looking at the spinning black hole from the side, as shown in this illustration, spacetime is shaped like a soccer ball. The faster the spin, the flatter the ball will be.
The spin of a black hole can be an important source of energy. When spin energy is removed from rotating supermassive black holes, collimated flows, like jets, are produced, implying that there is at least some matter in the vicinity of the black hole. Due to the low level of fuel orbiting Sgr A*, this black hole has been relatively quiet in recent millennia, with relatively weak jets. This study, however, shows that this could change if the amount of material in the vicinity of Sgr A* increases.
To determine the spin of Sgr A*, the authors employed an experimental methodology called the “outflow method.” This method specifies the relationship between the black hole’s spin and its mass, as well as the properties of the matter surrounding it. The black hole and the properties of the outflow. The collimated outflow generates radio waves, while the X-ray emission is caused by the gas disk surrounding the black hole. Using this technique, the researchers combined VLA and Chandra data with an independent estimate. of the black hole’s mass from other telescopes to limit its spin.
This illustration shows a cross section of Sagittarius A*. In the center, the rotating circular black hole is seen laterally in black and the shape of the surrounding space-time, rendered in shades of dark yellow, appears to have been squashed, thus resembling the shape of a soccer ball. The swirling gas surrounding Sagittarius A* is depicted on either side of the black hole within a rectangular-shaped dotted line, suggesting that the image represents a cross-sectional view. A large number of faint stars can be seen in the background, peeking out from beneath ominous, dark red and unclear clouds.
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first published: February 9, 2024, 18:13 IST
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