Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Energy Source "Wrings" Power From Black Hole Spin

Date:
October 24, 2001
Source:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Summary:
Scientists for the first time have seen energy being extracted from a black hole. Like an electric dynamo, this black hole spins and pumps energy out through cable-like magnetic field lines into the chaotic gas whipping around it, making the gas -- already infernally hot from the sheer force of crushing gravity -- even hotter.

Scientists for the first time have seen energy being extracted from a black hole. Like an electric dynamo, this black hole spins and pumps energy out through cable-like magnetic field lines into the chaotic gas whipping around it, making the gas -- already infernally hot from the sheer force of crushing gravity -- even hotter.

Related Articles


Joern Wilms of Tuebingen University, Germany, and an international team of astronomers observed the novel "power tapping" with the European Space Agency's X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission (XMM-Newton) satellite by watching a supermassive black hole in the core of galaxy named MCG-6-30-15. The observation also may explain the origin of particle jets in quasars.

"Never before have we seen energy extracted from a black hole," said co-author Christopher Reynolds of the University of Maryland, College Park. "We always see energy going in, not out."

"The gravity in this region appears to be so intense that the very fabric of space twists around the black hole, dragging magnetic field lines along with it," said Wilms. "The magnetic fields tighten about the black hole, slowing its spin. This 'friction' heats the region to even higher temperatures."

Scientists say most galaxies, including our Milky Way galaxy, have a supermassive black hole at their core. A supermassive black hole contains the mass of millions to billions of Suns compressed within a region smaller than our solar system. The black hole in MCG-6-30-15, over 100 million light-years from Earth, has the mass of about 100 million Suns.

The team observed the X-ray glow of iron gas traveling about half the speed of light very close to the black hole in MCG-6- 30-15's event horizon, the theoretical border of a black hole. XMM-Newton captured the spectrum, or chemical fingerprint, of this gas. The spectrum, laid out on a graph, resembles an electrocardiogram with its spikes and dips.

The iron spectrum from MCG-6-30-15 has extremely broad "spikes," an indication of gravity tugging at the particles of light, called photons, and literally stretching the light. MCG 6-30-15's iron line was so broad, in fact, that the bulk of the light must emanate from very close to the black hole, where the force of gravity is the greatest, Reynolds said.

The total energy output, or luminosity indicated by the spectrum, however, was too bright to be powered by gravity and the free fall of matter alone. Some additional power source must exist to boost the luminosity to the observed intensity.

Co-author Mitchell Begelman of the University of Colorado, Boulder, said this finding may be observational evidence of a theory by Prof. Roger Blandford, currently at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, and Dr. Roman Znajek, when he was at Cambridge University in England, over 25 years ago. According to the theory, rotational energy can be extracted from the black hole as it is braked by magnetic fields. The first law of thermodynamics (conservation of energy) states that energy lost from the black hole must be absorbed by the region.

Begelman said the energy lost in MCG-6-30-15 is transferred to the inner edge of the accretion disk, a flow of gas swirling around and eventually falling into the black hole. The Blandford-Znajek theory implies that energy flows to particle jets emanating perpendicularly from the accretion disk in certain supermassive black hole systems called quasars. MCG 6-30-15 is not a quasar, but Begelman said the theory can still apply because it predicts that the magnetic field might also link to the disk.

ASCA, a Japanese X-ray satellite, found possible evidence of a spinning black hole in 1994, but the signal was too weak to observe any evidence of energy being extracted from the black hole.

XMM-Newton, launched from French Guiana by ESA in December 1999, carries three advanced X-ray telescopes with the light- collecting ability to detect millions of sources, far greater than any previous X-ray mission. NASA helped fund mission development and supports guest observatory time. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., hosts the U.S. guest-observer support center.

Images are available at: http://www.gsfc.nasa.gov/topstory/20011015blackhole.html


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "New Energy Source "Wrings" Power From Black Hole Spin." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 October 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/10/011023073203.htm>.
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. (2001, October 24). New Energy Source "Wrings" Power From Black Hole Spin. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/10/011023073203.htm
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "New Energy Source "Wrings" Power From Black Hole Spin." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/10/011023073203.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

China Prepares Unmanned Mission To Lunar Orbit

China Prepares Unmanned Mission To Lunar Orbit

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) — The mission is China's next step toward automated sample-return missions and eventual manned missions to the moon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 22, 2014) — Russian cosmonauts Maxim Suraev and Alexander Samokutyaev step outside the International Space Station to perform work on the exterior of the station's Russian module. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — A comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system passed extremely close to Mars this weekend, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) — Argentina launches a home-built satellite, a first for Latin America. It will ride a French-made Ariane 5 rocket into orbit, and will provide cell phone, digital TV, Internet and data services to the lower half of South America. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins