’Iron-clad’ evidence for a spinning black hole
Telltale X-rays from iron may reveal if black holes are spinning or not, according to astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton Observatory. The gas flows and bizarre gravitational effects observed near stellar black holes are similar to those seen around supermassive black holes. Stellar black holes, in effect, are convenient `scale models’ of their much larger cousins.
Black holes come in at least two different sizes. Stellar black holes are between five and 20 times the mass of the Sun. At the other end size scale, supermassive black holes contain millions or billions times the mass of our Sun. The Milky Way contains both a supermassive black hole at its center, as well as a number of stellar black holes sprinkled throughout the Galaxy.
At a press conference at the “Four Years of Chandra” symposium in Huntsville, Ala., Jon Miller of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. discussed recent results on the X-ray spectra, or distribution of X-rays with energy, from the iron atoms in gas around three stellar black holes in the Milky Way.
Steve Roy | MSFC News Center
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