X-rays spot spinning black holes across cosmic sea

X-rays spot spinning black holes across cosmic sea
Credit: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Oklahoma/X. Dai et al.

Like whirlpools in the ocean, spinning black holes in space create a swirling torrent around them. However, black holes do not create eddies of wind or water. Rather, they generate disks of gas and dust heated to hundreds of millions of degrees that glow in X-ray light.

Using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and chance alignments across billions of light-years, astronomers have deployed a new technique to measure the spin of five supermassive . The matter in one of these cosmic vortices is swirling around its black hole at greater than about 70% of the speed of light.

The astronomers took advantage of a natural phenomenon called a gravitational lens. With just the right alignment, the bending of space-time by a massive object, such as a large galaxy, can magnify and produce multiple images of a distant object, as predicted by Einstein.

In this latest research, astronomers used Chandra and gravitational lensing to study six quasars, each consisting of a supermassive black hole rapidly consuming matter from a surrounding accretion disk. Gravitational lensing of the light from each of these quasars by an intervening galaxy has created multiple images of each quasar, as shown by these Chandra images of four of the targets. The sharp imaging ability of Chandra is needed to separate the multiple, lensed images of each quasar.

The key advance made by researchers in this study was that they took advantage of "microlensing," where individual stars in the intervening, lensing galaxy provided additional magnification of the light from the quasar. A higher magnification means a smaller region is producing the X-ray emission.

The researchers then used the property that a spinning black hole is dragging space around with it and allows matter to orbit closer to the black hole than is possible for a non-spinning black hole. Therefore, a smaller emitting region corresponding to a tight orbit generally implies a more rapidly spinning black hole. The authors concluded from their microlensing analysis that the X-rays come from such a small region that the black holes must be spinning rapidly.

The results showed that one of the black holes, in the lensed quasar called the "Einstein Cross," is spinning at, or almost at, the maximum rate possible. This corresponds to the , the black hole's point of no return, spinning at the speed of light, which is about 670 million miles per hour. Four other black holes in the sample are spinning, on average, at about half this maximum rate. (The 6th did not enable an estimate of spin.)

For the Einstein Cross the X-ray emission is from a part of the disk that is less than about 2.5 times the size of the event horizon, and for the other 4 quasars the X-rays come from a region four to five times the size of the event horizon.

How can these black holes spin so quickly? The researchers think that these likely grew by accumulating most of their material over billions of years from an accretion disk spinning with a similar orientation and direction of spin, rather than from random directions. Like a merry-go-round that keeps getting pushed in the same direction, the black holes kept picking up speed.

The X-rays detected by Chandra are produced when the accretion disk surrounding the black hole creates a multimillion-degree cloud, or corona, above the disk near the black hole. X-rays from this corona reflect off the inner edge of the , and the strong gravitational forces near the black hole distort the reflected X-ray spectrum, that is, the amount of X-rays seen at different energies. The large distortions seen in the X-ray spectra of the quasars studied here imply that the inner edge of the disk must be close to the black holes, giving further evidence that they must be spinning rapidly.

The quasars are located at distances ranging from 8.8 billion to 10.9 billion light-years from Earth, and the black holes have masses between 160 and 500 million times that of the sun. These observations were the longest ever made with Chandra of gravitationally lensed quasars, with total exposure times ranging between 1.7 and 5.4 days.


Explore further

Chandra and XMM-Newton provide direct measurement of distant black hole's spin

More information: Xinyu Dai et al. Constraining Quasar Relativistic Reflection Regions and Spins with Microlensing, The Astrophysical Journal (2019). DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/ab1d56
On Arxiv: arxiv.org/abs/1901.06007
Journal information: arXiv , Astrophysical Journal

Citation: X-rays spot spinning black holes across cosmic sea (2019, July 3) retrieved 18 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-07-x-rays-black-holes-cosmic-sea.html
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Jul 03, 2019
Near the start of the article, this is said about "Space-Time": "With just the right alignment, the bending of space-time by a massive object, such as a large galaxy, can magnify and produce multiple images of a distant object, as predicted by Einstein."

Certainly Space can be bent, as the Vacuum of Space is comprised of Particles which are Quantum bits of Matter/Energy. But HOW does one bend Time? What is Time comprised of that it can be bent and manipulated by forces? Nowhere have I found any writings by scientists/researchers with regard to the makeup of Time. I have said already in other physorg phorums that Time is only a Concept that was invented by the human Mind. But I strongly suspect that scientists aren't interested in proving that the Time element in Space-time is as real as Protons and Electrons are real. Perhaps no scientist has read what I have been saying as to the nonexistence of Time except as "a concept for measuring the durations of Events/Actions".
-contd-

Jul 03, 2019
Time is bent from our point of view allowing us to see the multiple instances at slightly different stages due to the extra time light takes to travel. Just because you don't understand time, doesn't mean the article is wrong. Time would exist even if humans never existed. We didn't invent the concept of time, it is one of the fundamental aspects of the universe. Without it, literally, nothing would have ever happened and the universe as we know it would never have been.

Jul 03, 2019
I have no problem with the rest of the article and I agree with 'gravitational lensing' to possibly clarify and enlarge faraway objects. But as to Space-Time, I would like to be able to comprehend more clearly what scientists refer to when they say that Time can be Bent. In order for Time to be 'bent' or manipulated in some way, Time would need to be comprised of any element in the Periodic Table, or a combination thereof, that would give Time the ability/capability to bend itself or by an outside force. Certain Forces of Energy are unseen, such as Gravity and EM and magnetic fields, but they all have their origins in the Quantum Universe. Scientists have never, AFAIK, given any hint of TIME also originating as a Particle or Wave. Is Time associated with Light/Photons?
Time has been but a concept that was formulated in the human Mind to measure in increments the durations of Events/Actions and Velocity as to Distance. Incremental measuring by the human Mind was necessary for Science

Jul 03, 2019
Time is bent from our point of view allowing us to see the multiple instances at slightly different stages due to the extra time light takes to travel. Just because you don't understand time, doesn't mean the article is wrong. Time would exist even if humans never existed. We didn't invent the concept of time, it is one of the fundamental aspects of the universe. Without it, literally, nothing would have ever happened and the universe as we know it would never have been.
says Jeffhans

I have said that I agree with the rest of the article. But I totally disagree with the inclusion of Time in Space-time.
HOW do you know that TIME is Bent? Can you SEE that it is bent? Light travels at a certain velocity no matter the distance from start to finish. Light doesn't depend on Time to travel any distance. There is no clock that measures Light except for the clocks invented by humans (and other intelligent life forms elsewhere). I read that Einstein was forced to include Time in maths

Jul 03, 2019
Einstein had a close friendship with his Professor who had previously determined that Time was a real commodity. When Albert Einstein was writing his Equations for GR and SR, his Professor INSISTED that Einstein include Time in his Spacetime maths. Einstein did as he was told to do, in spite of having some misgivings on it.
So after over a century, the word Time is so ingrained into the Mind of humans, whether in the scientific sense or in everyday language, that it will be virtually impossible to change its usage and meaning.

Jul 03, 2019
On Hermann Minkowski, Professor and friend of Albert Einstein

By 1907 Minkowski realized that the special theory of relativity, introduced by his former student Albert Einstein in 1905 and based on the previous work of Lorentz and Poincaré, could best be understood in a four-dimensional space, since known as the "Minkowski spacetime", in which time and space are not separated entities but intermingled in a four-dimensional space–time, and in which the Lorentz geometry of special relativity can be effectively represented using the invariant interval x^{2}+y^{2}+z^{2}-c^{2}t^{2}}

Jul 03, 2019
The beginning part of his address called "Space and Time" delivered at the 80th Assembly of German Natural Scientists and Physicians (21 September 1908) is now famous:

"The views of space and time which I wish to lay before you have sprung from the soil of experimental physics, and therein lies their strength. They are radical. Henceforth space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality."

Hermann Minkowski convinced Albert Einstein to include his Spacetime in Einsteins GR equations. Not wanting to offend his friend, Einstein did as he was told.

Jul 04, 2019
There is surely an optical component to this lensing as light travels through media of different densities. This seems never to be factored in.

Jul 04, 2019
The distances that light from the same source takes to make the Einstein Cross actually takes different paths, and since light from one of the images may have traveled a shorter distance than one of the others, and another shows a timeframe a little bit longer than that while the fourth falls somewhere in the middle of the other three. This gives the ability to look at the light sources as if they were different frames of the same movie, just catching them possibly out of sequence due to the actual light path traveled.

Along with the different media, as Agent Smith points out, this can give the effect of 'bending time' since you are getting several different timeframes arriving all at once.

By studying such a system over time you can find which of the images is first in sequence, and then be able to time the different paths depending on the actual events seen in the image: If a flare shows in one, then another and then a third, you can expect it to show on the fourth as well.

Jul 04, 2019
But as to Space-Time, I would like to be able to comprehend more clearly what scientists refer to when they say that Time can be Bent. In order for Time to be 'bent' or manipulated in some way, Time would need to be comprised of any element in the Periodic Table, or a combination thereof, that would give Time the ability/capability to bend itself or by an outside force.

You logic fails. EM-waves can be bent but I think they are not made of elements from the periodic table.

I know you have problems with time but just to be sure. What do you call the "thing" that for example makes clocks in earth orbit satellites tick faster than the ones on the ground? If there is no time, there must be some other explanation for this difference?

Jul 04, 2019
Time can be "bent" by velocity or acceleration. Just as the three spatial dimensions can.

It all depends upon differences in velocity and acceleration. Relativity is a method for reconciling these differences.

Jul 04, 2019
du·ra·tion
[d(y)o͝orˈāSH(ə)n]

NOUN
the time during which something continues.

So, essentially, "duration" is an increment of time.

Jul 04, 2019
"du·ra·tion
[d(y)o͝orˈāSH(ə)n]

NOUN
the time during which something continues."
So, essentially, "duration" is an increment of time.


"e·vent
[əˈvent]
NOUN
(physics)
a single occurrence of a process, e.g. the ionization of one atom."
a collection of smaller "events" that require a duration to become the larger event.
All increments, Incrementing time.
What are you, SEU, incrementing when you plan your day with "Princess"?

Jul 04, 2019
i understand that the work/study non-science major students transcribing these articles from source materials, are cheap labor

i surely wish, the publishers spent some of those cost savings on hiring an editor with experience in both writing for publication & at least in the more recent general sciences.

that the sillyegghead was impressed by this article should be a redflag as to all the clunkers & factual errors lumped into it.

Jul 04, 2019
Time can be "bent" by velocity or acceleration. Just as the three spatial dimensions can.

It all depends upon differences in velocity and acceleration. Relativity is a method for reconciling these differences.


Yes, but the 4-vector that combines 3D space and time has a metric that underscore how weak gravity is or conversely how fast light travels: ds = dx1 + dx2 + dx3 -c*dt. (The hyperbolic geometry of spacetime is why signals such as gravity or light can travel as waves from a source.)

It is all a model that comes from preserving laws among different observers, they may measure different time rates (say) but agree on why that is. Doing that means geodesics of light comes out "bent".

Coincidentally the black hole observations test general relativity not only because of the gravitational lensing of the shown cross say, but also because the event horizon spin rate max out at the universal speed limit ("c" in the equation for the relativity metric of spacetime).

Jul 08, 2019
Perhaps no scientist has read what I have been saying...


That's because you don't say anything of value.

In order for Time to be 'bent' or manipulated in some way, Time would need to be comprised of any element in the Periodic Table...


Yet you agree that space can be bent, even though space is not comprised of any elements.

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