Emission of fluorescence x-rays from iron atoms in the accretion disk of a supermassive black hole (Photo: NASA/JPL)
Illustration of two approaches to explain observed x-ray broadening near an SBH – relativistic effects, and obscuration (Photo: NASA/JPL)
Spectrum changes depending on rotation of accretion disk (Photo: NASA/JPL)
NASA/JPL NuSTAR x-ray space telescope (Photo: NASA/JPL)
Artist's conception of an accretion disk around a supermassive black hole (Photo: NASA/JPL)
Combined x-ray data from XMM-Newton and NuSTAR showing agreement with relativistic distortions from rapidly rotating SBH in NGC 1635 (Photo: NASA/JPL)
The rotation of a supermassive black hole (SBH) has been definitively measured for the first time by combining x-ray data obtained by the x-ray space telescopes XMM-Newton (soft x-rays) and NuSTAR (hard x-rays). The SBH at the center of a galaxy called NGC 1365 was found to be spinning at 84 percent of the maximum speed allowed by general relativity – or roughly speaking, the edge of the black hole is rotating at 84 percent of the speed of light.
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