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Space Science

A Black Hole's Spinning Heart of Darkness 121

Posted by Soulskill
from the the-horror-the-horror dept.
sciencehabit writes "Like all invisible things that are only partly understood, black holes evoke a sense of mystery. Astronomers know that the tremendous gravitational pull of a black hole sucks matter in, and that the material falling in causes powerful jets of particles to shoot out of the hole at nearly the speed of light. But how exactly this phenomenon occurs remains a matter of conjecture, because astronomers have never quite managed to observe the details – until now. Astrophysicists have taken the closest look to date at the region where matter swirls around a black hole. By measuring the size of the base of a jet shooting out of the supermassive black hole at the center of the M87 galaxy (abstract), the researchers conclude that the black hole must be spinning and that the material orbiting must also be swirling in the same direction. Some of the material from this orbiting 'accretion disk' is also falling into the black hole, like water swirling down a drain."
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A Black Hole's Spinning Heart of Darkness

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  • Fascinating (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dreamchaser (49529) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @03:51PM (#41501035) Homepage Journal

    I probably won't live to see it but I am looking forward to when we can directly observe in more detail the area surrounding the event horizon of black holes. There is so much we do not understand about the Universe and overall cosmology, but black holes by their very nature will probably be one of the last frontiers as we continue to peel back the layers of knowledge in our understanding of the nature of the Universe as a whole.

    There are also potentially practical applications given far greater technology than we have now. Imagine using black holes to generate energy, or as massive particle accelerator laboratories!

  • Re:Fascinating (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tysonedwards (969693) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @04:13PM (#41501161)
    Doesn't this point more to a possibility that a black hole is a solid physical body which manifests it's own physical rotation rather than some of the former mysticism explanations that have persisted to date?

    Basically a continual increase in material density from neutron star densities to the point where gravitational forces are capable of attracting photons and other larger classifications of matter, either resulting in the fusion of matter to ever increasing densities of conventional matter or recombination of subatomic components in such a fashion of maximum compression density.
  • Re:Fascinating (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 29, 2012 @04:39PM (#41501345)

    To me, I would think it suggests that high-intensity fields, in this case gravitational, can affect matter. Look at it from the opposite end of scale. Lets assume we have a point generating a magnetic field, the space surrounding that point can then be filled with free-floating, very fine iron particles. Ramp up the intensity of the field and set it spinning, it *will* affect the iron particles in the direction of its rotation, which would drag the particles around it.

    At least, it sounds plausible. :D

  • Re:Fascinating (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Cruciform (42896) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @04:48PM (#41501395) Homepage

    The media and a large percentage of the population treat *everything* with a degree of 'mysticism'. Anything that can't be understood in a sentence becomes ghosts, psychic phenomena, "god's hand", etc. etc.
    Trained careers like medicine, law, and science become overly dramatic and so highly fictionalized in entertainment that the people who relate to the statement above assume that crimes really are solved in an 8 hour shift, deathly illnesses can always be cured with a single injection in the way we might treat something with epinephrine, and that all physics can be described in a few phrases by Deepak Chopra.
    And there's a high level of resistance to combating that 'mysticism'.
    Even recently I encountered someone who said that psychics/mediums are frauds... except HER medium...
    Sigh.

  • Re:Fascinating (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tragedy (27079) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @07:40PM (#41502439)

    Warning! The above post is an electric universe/plasma cosmology theorist spouting off. They believe that the sun is a giant ball of iron powered by electric currents flowing through space. The whole thing is pretty wacky and is basically a conspiracy theory/collective schizophrenic delusion. You've heard it all before. They think all the so-called "scientists" are either part of a big coverup or are just complete and total fools who don't understand anything whereas they, the electric universe theorists, are the truly intelligent and enlightened.

  • Re:Fascinating (Score:3, Interesting)

    by brisk0 (2644101) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @07:50PM (#41502509)

    [...] the electrical force, which is 39 orders of magnitude greater than gravity.

    Where are you getting this from? Assuming metric units (I hope you're not doing physics with imperial) neither the difference between coulombic and gravitational constants nor the difference between charge and mass of a proton (the next -place I'd expect one to get that difference from). Regardless, claiming such a difference is a pointless endeavour, given that it's entirely a product of the unit system. In the system of Planck units gravity and coulombic force are identical!
    Point is, gravity isn't weak, nucleons are just kind of light.

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