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New Study Confirms Rotation of M87 Black Hole

55 million light-years away in the M87 galaxy lies a supermassive black hole. This active black hole, with a mass of 6.5 billion Suns, became the first black hole to be imaged in 2019.

After successfully imaging a black hole in this galaxy using the Event Horizon Telescope, the question of whether the black hole is spinning or not was at the forefront of scientists’ minds, said astrophysicist and study co-author Kazuhiro Hada of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. “Now the anticipation has grown into confidence. This monstrous black hole is actually spinning.”

To analyze the behavior of the M87 black hole, scientists analyzed 170 observations of it between 2000 and 2022, carried out at more than 200 telescopes. Scientists could judge the rotation of this black hole only by changing the position of its jet. A rotating black hole distorts the space-time around itself – the so-called entrainment of inertial frames of reference occurs. Thus, the direction of the jet and the orientation of the accretion disk change following the distortions of space-time.  To an external observer, this looks like a deflection of the jet by some angle.

The observations helped determine the angle of deflection of the jet, which was approximately 10°. The jet completes its movement in 11 years, after which the cycle begins again.

One of the most valuable results of the study is that it provides scientists with reliable data on the dynamic behavior of a black hole. It is no longer necessary to rely solely on computational models to understand the interaction of black holes with their environment. Now scientists can compare models with data, which will help to better understand the physics of not only black holes, but also the galaxies in which they reside.

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