Black hole of mammoth proportions spinning at speed of light!
The supermassive black hole lies at the center of the spiral galaxy NGC 1365. The sphere is more than 2 million miles across - eight times the distance from Earth to the Moon.
Astronomers measured its jaw-dropping spin rate using new data from the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton X-ray satellites.
"This is the first time anyone has accurately measured the spin of a supermassive black hole," said lead author Guido Risaliti of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and INAF - Arcetri Observatory.
This research is being published in the journal Nature. A black hole's gravity is so strong that, as the black hole spins, it drags the surrounding space along. The edge of this spinning hole is called the event horizon.
Any material crossing the event horizon is pulled into the black hole. Inspiraling matter collects into an accretion disk, where friction heats it and causes it to emit X-rays.
Risaliti and his colleagues measured X-rays from the center of NGC 1365 to determine where the inner edge of the accretion disk was located.
This Innermost Stable Circular Orbit - the disk's point of no return - depends on the black hole's spin. Since a spinning black hole distorts space, the disk material can get closer to the black hole before being sucked in.
Astronomers want to know the black hole's spin
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