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Fastest Spinning Black Hole Ever Found 204

Posted by kdawson
from the wheeee dept.
brian0918 writes, "NewScientist reports that researchers in Cambridge have detected a black hole spinning at nearly 1,000 times per second — the fastest ever recorded. From the article: 'McClintock's team examined a black hole in our galaxy called GRS 1915+105, which lies about 36,000 light years away. They found the innermost stable orbit around GRS 1915 is so close that the black hole must be spinning at nearly 1000 times per second. The finding supports the idea that only fast-spinning stars can collapse to create powerful explosions called long gamma-ray bursts.'" The Astrophysical Journal abstract is open but you have to be a subscriber to read the full article there.
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Fastest Spinning Black Hole Ever Found

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I bet it would make for a crappy RAID array.

    In addition to low throughput, I bet there would be some data loss.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Gogogoch (663730)
      Apparantly, there is no data loss. That idea has been revised. Just a very, very long access time.
  • by Quaoar (614366) on Monday November 20, 2006 @03:19PM (#16918966)
    I thought this title was held by White House press secretary Tony Snow...
  • I would like to point out that "Long gamma ray bursts" would be an excellent name for a rock band.
  • Original Article (Score:5, Informative)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Monday November 20, 2006 @03:23PM (#16919022) Journal
    The original article is from The Astrophysical Journal and I'm not sure if you can read this but I'll link it here [uchicago.edu]. I have an account so that may be unreachable, if it is try the PDF of it [uchicago.edu] or the abstract [uchicago.edu]. I often enjoy reading the original article no matter how large and complex it is. If anything, it causes me to look up more terms so that I feel like I'm learning something.
    • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Monday November 20, 2006 @03:36PM (#16919264)
      Yes, a deliberately inflammatory subject line. In The Olde Dayes, people said the moon was made of green cheese because it has the colour of green (unripened) cheese and their models were not very sophisticated. We still rely on models and the outcomes are only as good as the models themselves, and the observations they are based on.

      People, what we have is a model, not an observation. As TFA says, this model is based on assumptions, though fewer assumptions in the past:"Now, astronomers have measured the spin of a black hole with a new method that requires fewer assumptions."

      The black hole may indeed be spinning at 1000 revs, or is might just be that one of the model assumptions is invalid.

      • Method (Score:3, Informative)

        by iamlucky13 (795185)
        That is true. However, this is currently our best estimate, and the theory applied is pretty well-respected. It may be interesting to know that this finding supports a 1997 suggestion that this particular black hole spins very close to its maximum. The 1997 paper attempted to explain in theory the x-ray jets this black hole emits by suggesting it spins. In contrast, this new paper actually documents an attempt to measure the spin.

        Anyway, assuming the theory is correct, their method sounds pretty plausibl
        • I am not at all adverse to people making models, nor even making guesses. That is all science is: a set of models and guesses. However these models are very often based on pretty dodgy assumptions and often don't scale well. "Scientific" announcements should be made in ways that make this clear.

          The models used here might be completely accurate. They might also be just a reasonable approximation for some coditions, and might be an appaling approximation when you step outside those conditions. A bit like New

          • Your points are true, and in fact all measurements are at some level just approximations (eg: you read a ruler measurement as 6 inches, when it is actually 6.13 inches, or you calculate a trip time based on as-the-crow-flies distance instead of road distance).

            So yes, assuming the underlying theories are correct, this could be a good measurement. We don't for certain know that general relativity and quantum mechanics are correct, but currently there is almost no scientific dissent on their validity. Those
          • "Scientific" announcements should be made in ways that make this clear.

            Or our high school science classes should be improved to the point that every adult would already know that these caveats are implicit in every scientific announcement. Way too many of us (esp. us Americans) treat science as either gospel or hogwash. Note that claiming that science is hogwash in no way implies rejecting the practical fruits of said hogwash.

  • I find it amazing that they can find an object which emits absolutely no light, halfway across the galaxy, and yet it's still so hard to find planets. I know they find the black holes by their accretion discs, but I still think it's remarkable.
    • by 0racle (667029) on Monday November 20, 2006 @03:30PM (#16919170)
      If there was a planet with a gravitational pull equivalent to a Black Hole, I bet they'd find it pretty quick.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by twifosp (532320)

        If there was a planet with a gravitational pull equivalent to a Black Hole, I bet they'd find it pretty quick.

        Erm, if there was a planet with a gravitational pull equivalent to a black hole, it would for all intents and purposes be a black hole. A hunk of matter with enough mass to equal the gravitational pull of a black hole would also not emit light. It would also have to be incredibly spread out. It would also have enough mass to start fusion and would either be a gas giant or would collapse and for

        • I think you missed his entire point: The effects of gravity make Black Holes easy to spot as opposed to planets which do not affect as much mass in their regions of space.

          strike
    • by jimstapleton (999106) on Monday November 20, 2006 @03:44PM (#16919388) Journal
      because they don't use light to detect either, they use the effect on nearby matter; which means their gravity, and not their size/light is what matters. Although someone mentioned that black holes also have a kind of "halo", which could also still be used. Also there is an accretion disk (I believe that's what it's called), around a black hole where stuff is getting sucked in. That would create a large and visible effect.

      Nonetheless, a planet will make a star vibrate ever-so-slightly-and-slowly, whereas a black whole will make who masses of stuff rotate around it, and suck them in.

    • by noewun (591275)
      Despite their size, black holes make a much larger dent in spacetime than planets. You can find a black hole through a number of means--their enormous gravity, the effect this has on planets, stars or gas nearby, X-ray or gamma ray bursts caused by matter falling into the black hole, gravitational lensing, etc.--all of which are relatively visible from far away. Planets, on the other hand, don't do much other than orbit stars. You can find them through their much smaller gravitational effects, or from purel
    • You can pump energy out of a spinning black hole using a technique [wikipedia.org] discovered by Roger Penrose. A spinning black hole, with some other matter nearby, is a long way from "black". They can, in fact, be among the brightest things in the universe, at least in the X-ray spectrum.
    • by Ihlosi (895663)
      I find it amazing that they can find an object which emits absolutely no light

      ... but does have a big-freaking-huge gravitational influence on its surroundings ...



      , halfway across the galaxy, and yet it's still so hard to find planets.

      ... which emit pretty much no light either, and have a gravity that's orders of magnitude of orders of magnitude weaker than that of black hole.

  • by AltGrendel (175092) <ag-slashdot @ e x i t 0.us> on Monday November 20, 2006 @03:26PM (#16919070) Homepage
    We know it won't fly apart from centrifugal force.
    • Squished apart (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jbeaupre (752124)
      If I remember correctly, centrifugal force as we know it actually reverses near a black hole. Pulling inward instead of outward. A rotating black hole may be compressed further by its rotation. Maybe someone familiar with the phenomena can shed more light.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by shrubsky (661474)
        I'm not certain, but you might be thinking about frame dragging. Rotating objects drag space-time around with them; the more massive the object, the stronger the effect. Because black holes tend to the massive side and can spin very very fast the frame dragging effect can be very strong near the event horizon.

        Because of this effect, it is impossible not to orbit a rapidly spinning black hole as you fall in; you'll get dragged around along with space-time. I'm guessing (without having actually heard or re
    • Do we?

      No, seriously. Relativity says that infinite tensile strength is impossible. Everything *must* cease to act as a perfectly rigid body at some level of applied force.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 20, 2006 @03:31PM (#16919196)
    The astrophysics arXiv preprint [arxiv.org] from June.
  • In theory, that could be a time machine [firstscience.com]... anyone know the details of the math?
    • So that's where that bastard Marty parked my DeLorean....
  • by Kenja (541830) on Monday November 20, 2006 @03:41PM (#16919334)
    So the question is, whos grave is it and what did we do to get them to spin that fast?
  • Makes sense to me... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by e4g4 (533831) on Monday November 20, 2006 @03:42PM (#16919356)
    ...some astronomers have expressed doubt that stars would be spinning fast enough at this stage in their lives.

    Now, i'm not an astrophysicist, but it seems to me that if a star had any spin at all before collapsing into a black hole, that spin would be magnified quite substantially, to conserve angular momentum (y'know, like a figure skater, or you spinning on your office chair).
    • by lymond01 (314120)
      How the hell did you know I was spinning in my chair?
    • by volpe (58112)
      Good point. Wouldn't any finite angular velocity, therefore, dictate a non-zero radius, and therefore that the object is not a singularity?
      Two more questions:

      1. Why are the positions of stable orbits (and what makes an orbit "stable", anyway?) dependent on the rate of rotation of the body being orbited? Isn't orbital mechanics dictated by the mass of the object being orbited? If you know the mass, and the altitude, you can compute the orbital velocity, no?

      2. If the object is truly a singularity, does the co
  • by Betelgeuse (35904) on Monday November 20, 2006 @03:44PM (#16919392) Homepage
    If you'd like to see the whole article, as published in the Astrophysical Journal, you can find it on the astro-ph journal pre-print server. [arxiv.org] It's not the "official" journal version, but it should be identical to it (and was submitted to the preprint server by the authors).
  • of the black hole?

    If an ogject is orbiting at 1,000 times per second in order for it to remain just below the speed of light it would have to be NO farther than about 30 miles from the center of the black hole.

    It's got to be on the verge of exploding. I wonder what effect the explosion will have here on Earth at 38,000 light years away?
  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Monday November 20, 2006 @03:55PM (#16919578)
    Here's [nrao.edu] a 20 mile diameter pulsar spinning at 716 Hertz. When you factor in the increase in rotational speed with the black hole contraction, 1K sounds real plausible.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday November 20, 2006 @03:56PM (#16919582) Homepage Journal
    Some astrophysicists say that some spinning cylindrical black holes warp spacetime enough that a projectile moving through its nearby region gets its velocity rotated to travel through time instead of a spatial axis. Is this new one the longest wormhole [wikipedia.org] yet found?
  • one of the stock phrases, whenever you try to touch something interesting but non-functional in the game:
    "Doooon't mess with it!"

    In this case, it sounds extremely functional, in the gravity-that-rips-your-arms-off sense.
  • obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by owlnation (858981) on Monday November 20, 2006 @04:05PM (#16919722)
    I for one, welcome our new extremely dizzy overlords.
    • "in the spiral black vortices of that ultimate void of Chaos wherein reigns the mindless daemon-sultan Azathoth"

      "the ancient legends of Ultimate Chaos, at whose center sprawls the blind idiot god Azathoth, Lord of All Things, encircled by his flopping horde of mindless and amorphous dancers, and lulled by the thin monotonous piping of a demoniac flute held in nameless paws."

      Wikipedia link [wikipedia.org]

      Seemed somehow fitting.
  • by writerjosh (862522) on Monday November 20, 2006 @04:36PM (#16920224) Homepage
    "A lot of research is focusing on creating an opening into the higher dimensional Hyperspace that contain innumerable universes. If it can be done, our whole world will change. We will leap forward in the advancement of science and technologies by millions of years.

    Every black hole has a central singularity. These are points where mathematical modeling fails. That is because we assume every thing is 3-D. But the fact of the matter is these centers of black holes are singularities in 3-D but are actually simply transition points in higher dimensions..." [source] [indiadaily.com]

    Whoa
    • by Jerf (17166) on Monday November 20, 2006 @05:18PM (#16920882) Journal
      Uh, "Informative" my ass. A selection of other "technology" articles from India Daily, obtained simply by clicking on the "technology" tab on their page:
      Gravity wave connectors through black hole singularities connect integrated consciousness from the chilled universe: Mathematically it is clear now that gravity waves can easily pass through the points of singularities in the black holes. These connect the integrated consciousness and provide guidance from the chilled universe below the Hyperspace.

      We are part of a super advanced Type IV extraterrestrial civilization- projection of Zero Point Energy Module encapsulated as life on 3-D vector space with increasing span: After attaining perfection or 'Error Vector zero', we move on to higher dimension and continue the process till we cross into the chilled universe.

      The world of advanced extraterrestrial civilizations - life-surrounding singularities: The time and space dimensions (infinite in numbers) can be accessed individually, manipulated and new configurations can be created.
      India Times articles often show on Fark; I'll leave it to you to guess why.

      Moderators: Big words != informative.
      • by smoker2 (750216)
        Ok, prove them wrong !
    • by khallow (566160)

      My favorite line is:

      The limit cycle in the black hole is stable with everything getting attracted to it while on the other side it is unstable in terrestrial science vocabulary which means everything is pushed out over time.

      Remember you heard about semantically unstable blackholes on India Times first! And the story babbles about "computer models". If you have something that can't be modelled mathetically, then it can't be modeled with computers either. The latter is a special case of the former.

  • Is there any data on its diameter/circumference? If it's spinning at 1000 RPS, and it's more than 186 miles around then wouldn't its surface (event horizon?) be traveling FTL?
  • There's one thing I don't understand about black holes. I've read that a black hole is so massive that space itself is warped around it. This warping means that a straight line that starts at the center will return to the center. It returns even though in its local context it is straight. But don't gravitons move like light? So how does the force of gravity escape? No light or other signal can escape... And yet gravity can! Weird.
    • by shrubsky (661474)
      In General Relativity, gravity is the warping of space you refer to. The warp is the path light would take when travelling through that region. Everything with mass warps space-time a bit, and black holes do so a lot; so much so that any light you emit inside the event horizon bends around until it's in the singularity no matter where you aimed it initially.

      Gravitons are a proposed quantum paritcle, and black holes and quantum physics haven't been reconciled yet. The warping-of-space-time explaination do
    • by Cheapy (809643)
      I've always thought of Gravity as a law of the universe, not an entity like light is. Maybe I'm just bad at visualizing things, but I can visualize light, information, etc. but I can't visualize gravity.
    • by khayman80 (824400)

      There's one thing I don't understand about black holes. I've read that a black hole is so massive that space itself is warped around it. This warping means that a straight line that starts at the center will return to the center. It returns even though in its local context it is straight.

      More precisely, a black hole warps space in the sense that if you had a flashlight right on the event horizon and pointed it parallel to the event horizon, the light would travel in a great circle on the event horizon.

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