The black hole in question resides 60 million light years away at the centre of the NGC 1365 spiral galaxy, is a mind-boggling 3.2 million kilometres in diameter, has a mass two million times that of our Sun and is spinning at a rather impressive 1.08 billion km/h. Astronomers can now say this with confidence, after combining the efforts of Nasa’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (Nustar) — which measures high-energy X-rays — and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton, which measures low-energy X-rays.
The former was launched in June 2012 to track and measure the highest energy events in space. However, without the aid of ESA’s device, it was unable to determine whether the measurements of warped X-rays being taken were a result of nearby gas clouds manipulating results, or the black hole’s own gravitational pull.
The find is an important one, because it helps astronomers understand the life of a black hole — which stretches, pulls on and distorts space, and can affect the evolution of galaxies — which in turn helps test the accuracy of Einstein’s theory of relativity, which argues that gravity can bend space and time.
“The black hole’s spin is a memory, a record, of the past history of the galaxy as a whole,” Guido Risaliti of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, the lead author of a paper revealing the results, said in a statement.
Journal Reference: Nature
For more on Black Holes and Astrophysics.