Da Black Whole

Friday, January 14, 2005

Surfing SpaceTime

[via YahooNews, temporary link here]

Black holes deform space and time around them: scientists

Tue Jan 11, 7:33 AM ET Science - AFP

SAN DIEGO, California (AFP) - Black holes, the universe's biggest vacuum cleaners, deform space and time surrounding them, two teams of astrophysicists reported on the sidelines of the American Astronomica Society's winter meeting.

John Miller, of Harvard University's astrophisical center at Boston, Massachusetts, was able to see gas particles literally "surfing" a space-time wave around a black hole known as GRS 1915+105, some 40,000 light years away in the Aquila constellation.

His observations have confirmed a key theory that nothing is able to escape a black hole's extreme gravitational field, not even light waves, Miller told reporters on Tuesday.

The data shows that "black holes are such extreme objects that they can actually warp and drag the fabric of spacetime around with them as they spin," the scientists reported.

"Gas whipping around the black hole has no choice but to ride that wave of choppy spacetime sea that distorts everything falling into the black hole," they added.

The space-time warp caused by extreme gravity was predicted in 1916 by Albert Einstein in his theory of relativity, said Miller, who did his reasearch with Jeroen Homan of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (news - web sites).

They made their observations with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Rossi-X Timing Explorer satellite, the most powerful orbiting X-ray telescope.

A second team of astrophysicists headed by Jane Turner working jointly with NASA (news - web sites)'s Goddard space-flight center and the astrophysical center of the University of Maryland was also able to see three extremely hot sets of particles the size of our Sun turn around a black hole at 32,000 kilometers (20,000 miles) per second -- more than 10 percent the speed of light.

In their observations, made with the XMM-Newton satellite of the European Space Agency, scientists were able to see for the first time a particle of matter spinning completely around a black hole.

The information should provide vital clues on mass and other characteristics of a black hole, Turner and her colleague Lance Miller of Britain's Oxford University said.

The small, but very black hole Turner and Miller trained their instrument on lies in the Makarian galaxy, some 170 million light years away in the constellation Coma Berenices.


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