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 30, 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 30, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Antares Liftoff Explosion

Raw: Antares Liftoff Explosion

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Observers near Wallops Island recorded what they thought would be a routine rocket launch Tuesday night. What they recorded was a major rocket explosion shortly after lift off. (Oct 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Russian Cargo Ship Docks at Space Station

Raw: Russian Cargo Ship Docks at Space Station

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Just hours after an American cargo run to the International Space Station ended in flames, a Russian supply ship has arrived at the station with a load of fresh supplies. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Journalist Captures Moment of Antares Rocket Explosion

Journalist Captures Moment of Antares Rocket Explosion

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 29, 2014) A space education journalist is among those who witness and record the explosion of an unmanned Antares rocket seconds after its launch. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rocket Explosion Under Investigation

Rocket Explosion Under Investigation

AP (Oct. 28, 2014) NASA and Orbital Sciences officials say they are investigating the explosion of an unmanned commercial supply rocket bound for the International Space Station. It blew up moments after liftoff Tuesday evening over the launch site in Virginia. (Oct. 28) Video provided by AP
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