Black holes spinning faster than ever before

May 23, 2011
An artist's impression of the jets emerging from a supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy PKS 0521-36. Credit: Dana Berry / STScI

(PhysOrg.com) -- Two UK astronomers have found that the giant black holes in the centre of galaxies are on average spinning faster than at any time in the history of the Universe. Dr Alejo Martinez-Sansigre of the University of Portsmouth and Prof. Steve Rawlings of the University of Oxford made the new discovery by using radio, optical and X-ray data. They publish their findings in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

There is strong evidence that every galaxy has a black hole in its centre. These have masses of between a million and a billion Suns and so are referred to as 'supermassive'. They cannot be seen directly, but material swirls around the black hole in a so-called before its final demise. That material can become very hot and emit radiation including that can be detected by space-based telescopes whilst associated can be detected by telescopes on the ground.

As well as radiation, twin jets are often associated with black holes and their accretion disks. There are many factors that can cause these jets to be produced, but the spin of the is believed to be important. However, there are conflicting predictions about how the spins of the black holes should be evolving and until now this evolution was not well understood.

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An artist's animation of a quasar with jets emerging from a supermassive black hole. Credit: ESA / Hubble / M. Kornmesser and L. L. Christensen.

Dr Martinez-Sansigre and Professor Rawlings compared of spinning black holes with radio, optical and X-ray observations made using a variety of instruments and found that the theories can explain very well the population of with jets.

Using the radio observations, the two astronomers were able to sample the population of black holes, deducing the spread of the power of the jets. By estimating how they acquire material (the accretion process) the two scientists could then infer how quickly these objects are spinning.

The observations also give information on how the spins of supermassive black holes have evolved. In the past, when the Universe was half its the present size, practically all of the supermassive black holes had very low spins, whereas nowadays a fraction of them have very high spins. So on average, supermassive black holes are spinning faster than ever before.
This is the first time that the evolution of the spin of the supermassive black holes has been constrained and it suggests that those supermassive black holes that grow by swallowing matter will barely spin, while those that merge with other black holes will be left spinning rapidly.

Commenting on the new results, Dr Martinez-Sansigre said: "The spin of black holes can tell you a lot about how they formed. Our results suggest that in recent times a large fraction of the most massive black holes have somehow spun up. A likely explanation is that they have merged with other black holes of similar mass, which is a truly spectacular event, and the end product of this merger is a faster spinning black hole."

Professor Rawlings adds: "Later this decade we hope to test our idea that these supermassive black holes have been set spinning relatively recently. Black hole mergers cause predictable distortions in space and time - so-called gravitational waves. With so many collisions, we expect there to be a cosmic background of gravitational waves, something that will change the timing of the pulses of radio waves that we detect from the remnants of massive stars known as pulsars.

If we are right, this timing change should be picked up by the Square Kilometre Array, the giant radio observatory due to start operating in 2019."

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More information: The results are published in the paper, "Observational constraints on the spin of the most massive black holes from radio observations", Martinez-Sansigre A., Rawlings S., Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. A preprint of the paper can be seen at arxiv.org/abs/1102.2228

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kevinrtrs
1.4 / 5 (24) May 23, 2011
In the past, when the Universe was half its the present size, practically all of the supermassive black holes had very low spins

Just how do they know this? Were they there? Did someone record this spin rate? Perhaps they should be clear that it is conjectured that this was the case, instead of stating it such that it can be interpreted as being a fact. It's not a fact, it's simply conjecture on their part.
Au-Pu
1.3 / 5 (16) May 23, 2011
I agree with kevinrts they simply cannot know this.
They can at best theorise that this is or was so but they cannot know this to be true.
Computer modelling depends entirely upon the input, because it is the input that determines the outcome, sort of self proving.
mattbroderick
4.8 / 5 (20) May 23, 2011
@above

Remember, looking deep into space is looking far back in time!
spectator
2.4 / 5 (5) May 23, 2011
...those supermassive black holes that grow by swallowing matter will barely spin, while those that merge with other black holes will be left spinning rapidly.


Both of these are sound statements due to conservation of angular momentum.

However, this is useless for "post-dicting" how old a black hole is, or how it formed, because those are relative terms, AND because you don't know the initial conditions of a system.

For example, a "seed" black hole at the center of a galaxy could have been created at the moment of creation of the universe, and it's own rate of spin could have been anything from zero to arbitrarily close to the speed of light, just like "primordial black holes".

After the fact, you cannot prove whether this is the case, or what the initial spin of the black hole was. For a primordial black hole with a modern accretion disk, you can't prove what percentage of the black hole's mass was always inside the event horizon.
spectator
2.3 / 5 (3) May 23, 2011
Additionally, unless you actually observed the black hole form, you cannot prove whether the black hole formed through gravitational collapse and accretion, or whether the black hole is a primordial black hole which was created at the moment the universe was created. There is no way to know, and no "information" gleaned from the black hole or it's surrounding environment can ever answer the question.

The only information you can even theoretically know about a black hole is it's velocity through space-time, charge, mass, and angular momentum.

Since none of those properties can identify absolutely how the black hole was created, you cannot know the method of creation unless you directly observed the creation event.

While it's true you would have a high spin in most black hole mergers, it's also possible for a primordial black hole to have had incredibly high mass or incredibly high spin, again, anywhere from zero to arbitarily close to the speed of light.
Tuxford
1.7 / 5 (18) May 23, 2011
Black holes are still only theoretical.
Shootist
1 / 5 (1) May 23, 2011
on average spinning faster than at any time in the history of the Universe


Even though from our perspective, the infalling matter takes an eon to reach the event horizon . . . angular momentum is preserved.
SemiNerd
4.8 / 5 (13) May 23, 2011
I agree with kevinrts they simply cannot know this.
They can at best theorise that this is or was so but they cannot know this to be true.
Computer modelling depends entirely upon the input, because it is the input that determines the outcome, sort of self proving.

We can easily observe objects 6 billion light years away. That means they are being seen as they were 6 billion years ago.

You statement that we cannot observe the universe as it was then is nonsense.
jsa09
4.3 / 5 (4) May 23, 2011
@seminerd
We can easily observe objects 6 billion light years away. That means they are being seen as they were 6 billion years ago.


Close but no cigar. When expansion is taken into account we need to observe objects approx. 7 billion ly away to see things that happened 6 billion years ago.

That is basing the accumulated rate of expansion over the past 6 billion years at an average of 1/7th of C. There has been discussion that the expansion rate is accelerating and also that at some point in the past it was at many times C and had in fact slowed down.

It may be that the average rate of expansion is must higher than I stated and therefore we would have to observe much further away to get a view of what happened 6 Billion years ago.
jsa09
not rated yet May 23, 2011
too slow to edit. In any case I sort of agree with seminerd except that determining the spin of black holes must be extremely difficult in most cases. They have to actually be absorbing matter while being observed and even that is not enough as the matter rotating around the black hole may be rotating at a different velocity to speed of rotation of the black hole itself.
omatumr
1.4 / 5 (10) May 24, 2011
Black holes are still only theoretical.


You are right.

The theory of black holes was proposed before neutron repulsion was recognized in nuclear rest mass data for every nucleus with two or more neutrons:

www.omatumr.com/D...Data.htm

"Neutron Repulsion", The APEIRON Journal, in press, 19 pages (2011)

http://arxiv.org/...2.1499v1
Wulfgar
5 / 5 (1) May 24, 2011
I'm picturing the ice skater spinning and bringing her arms in to spin faster. Couldn't there be some rearranging of the matter inside the event horizon that is causing increased spin, rather than gaining or losing mass or colliding with another massive object that imparts spin?
omatumr
1 / 5 (4) May 28, 2011
[
I'm picturing the ice skater spinning and bringing her arms in to spin faster. Couldn't there be some rearranging of the matter inside the event horizon that is causing increased spin, rather than gaining or losing mass or colliding with another massive object that imparts spin?


It's brain twisting for sure but rest assured it has nothing to do with 'neutron repulsion'.


The universe is, in fact, simple [1].

Some minds refuse its simplicity:

Expansion/Contraction
Repulsion/Attraction
Neutron/Hydrogen

1. "Is the Universe Expanding?" The Journal of Cosmology 13, 4187-4190 (2011)

http://journalofc...102.html

Sometimes we try to be too darn smart!

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo
Wulfgar
not rated yet May 29, 2011
I'm picturing the ice skater spinning and bringing her arms in to spin faster. Couldn't there be some rearranging of the matter inside the event horizon that is causing increased spin, rather than gaining or losing mass or colliding with another massive object that imparts spin?


Well inside the event horizon is the singularity (zero volume and infinite mass) but there will never be a way to know what happens inside the event horizon.

It's brain twisting for sure but rest assured it has nothing to do with 'neutron repulsion'.


I may be wrong, but it was my understanding that although there is a singularity at the center of the black hole, the event horizon doesn't demarcate the border of the singularity, only the point at which nothing can escape the gravity of the black hole. If that's true, then matter beyond that boundary does not merge with the singularity until it reaches the center of the black hole.
jsdarkdestruction
not rated yet Jul 22, 2011
Thats one of the dumbest posts ive ever heard oliver. Your "simple" version is so simple it doesnt even need any evidence or proof or supported by anyone but you and a handful of others at tops, almost all of whom have little real understanding of things and blindly follow you who have no real scietific backgrounds. Your a child molester or your theory is shit. Give it up oliver. Your students who helped with studying all the nuclear rest masses you claim proves neutron repulsion dont even support your claims.

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