The University of Southampton

Researchers measure spin of rapidly whirling black hole

Published: 17 January 2019
This image shows the star-studded centre of the Milky Way. Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Brammer.

An astronomy team led by researchers from the University of Southampton have discovered a black hole in our Galaxy with one of the highest spin rates in the known universe.

The project found observational evidence that the stellar-mass black hole, known as 4U 1630-472, is spinning near its maximum possible rate around its axis.

Astronomical black holes can only be fully characterized by mass and spin rate, which makes measurements of these two properties uniquely important to probe some extreme aspects of the universe and the fundamental physics related to them.

The study, funded by the Royal Society, has published its findings in The Astrophysical Journal.

Lead author Dr Mayukh Pahari, from the School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “Detecting signatures that allow us to measure spin is extremely difficult. During our observations we were lucky enough to obtain a spectrum directly from the radiation of the matter falling into the black hole and simple enough to measure the distortion caused by the rotating black hole.”

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