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HomeScienceTelescopes show Milky Way black hole ready to take a kick

Telescopes show Milky Way black hole ready to take a kick


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This artist’s illustration shows the findings of a new study on the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy called Sagittarius A* (abbreviated as Sgr A*). As we reported in our last press release, this result found that Sgr A* is spinning so quickly that it is warping spacetime (i.e. time and the three dimensions of space) so that it may look more like a ball. soccer. Credit: Chandra X-ray Center

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This artist’s illustration shows the findings of a new study on the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy called Sagittarius A* (abbreviated as Sgr A*). As we reported in our last press release, this result found that Sgr A* is spinning so quickly that it is warping spacetime (i.e. time and the three dimensions of space) so that it may look more like a ball. soccer. Credit: Chandra X-ray Center

The supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way is spinning so fast that it is warping the space-time around it into a shape that may resemble a soccer ball, according to a new study using data from the Lightning Observatory. X Chandra from NASA and National Science. Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) Foundation.

Astronomers call this giant black hole Sagittarius A* (Sgr A* for short), which is located about 26,000 light years from Earth, at the center of our galaxy.

Black holes have two fundamental properties: their mass (how much they weigh) and their spin (how fast they spin). Determining either of these two values ​​tells scientists a lot about any black hole and how it behaves.

A team of researchers applied a new method using radio and X-ray data to determine how fast Sgr A* spins based on how material flows to and from the black hole. They found that Sgr A* spins with an angular velocity (the number of revolutions per second) that is about 60% of the maximum possible value, a limit set by the fact that the material cannot travel faster than the speed of light. .

In the past, different astronomers made various other estimates of Sgr A*’s rotation speed using different techniques, with results ranging from Sgr A* not spinning at all to spinning at almost its maximum speed.

“Our work may help resolve the question of how fast our galaxy’s supermassive black hole is spinning,” said Ruth Daly of Penn State University, lead author of the new study. “Our results indicate that Sgr A* is spinning very rapidly, which is interesting and has far-reaching implications.”


Credit: Chandra X-ray Center

A rotating black hole attracts “spacetime” (the combination of time and the three dimensions of space) and nearby matter as it spins. The spacetime around the rotating black hole is also crushed. Looking at a black hole from above, along the barrel of any jet it produces, spacetime has a circular shape. However, if you look at the spinning black hole from the side, spacetime is shaped like a soccer ball. The faster the spin, the flatter the ball will be.

The spin of a black hole can act as an important source of energy. Spinning supermassive black holes can produce collimated outflows, that is, narrow beams of material like jets, when their spin energy is extracted, which requires that there be at least some matter in the vicinity of the black hole.

Due to fuel shortages around Sgr A*, this black hole has been relatively quiet in recent millennia with relatively weak jets. This work, however, shows that this could change if the amount of material in the vicinity of Sgr A* increases.

“A spinning black hole is like a rocket on its launch pad,” said study co-author Biny Sebastian from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. “Once the material gets close enough, it’s like someone fueled the rocket and pressed the ‘launch’ button.”


Chandra X-ray image of Sagittarius A* and the surrounding region. Credit: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Wisconsin/Y.Bai, et al.

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Chandra X-ray image of Sagittarius A* and the surrounding region. Credit: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Wisconsin/Y.Bai, et al.

This means that in the future, if the properties of matter and the intensity of the magnetic field near the black hole change, some of the enormous energy from the black hole’s spin could generate more powerful outflows. This source material could come from gas or the remains of a star torn apart by the black hole’s gravity if that star gets too close to Sgr A*.

“Jets driven and collimated by a galaxy’s rotating central black hole can profoundly affect the gas supply for an entire galaxy, affecting how quickly and even how well stars form,” said co-author Megan Donahue of Michigan State University. “The ‘Fermi bubbles’ seen in X-rays and gamma rays around our Milky Way’s black hole show that the black hole was probably active in the past. Measuring the spin of our black hole is an important test of this scenario.”

To determine the spin of Sgr A*, the authors used an empirically based theoretical method called the “outflow method” that details the relationship between the black hole’s spin and its mass, the properties of matter near the black hole, and output properties.

The collimated flow produces radio waves, while the gas disk surrounding the black hole is responsible for the emission of X-rays. Using this method, the researchers combined data from Chandra and the VLA with an independent estimate of the hole’s mass. black hole from other telescopes to limit the spin of the black hole.

“We have a special view of Sgr A* because it is the closest supermassive black hole to us,” said co-author Anan Lu of McGill University in Montreal, Canada. “Although it’s quiet now, our work shows that in the future it will give an incredibly powerful boost to surrounding matter. That could happen in a thousand or a million years, or it could happen in our lifetimes.”

The study is published In the diary Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

More information:
Ruth A Daly et al, New black hole spin values ​​for Sagittarius A* obtained with the outflow method, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2023). DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stad3228

Magazine information:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society




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