Mouth of Giant Black Hole Measured for First Time

By | October 1, 2012
The point of no return: In astronomy, it’s known as a black hole—a region in space where the pull of gravity is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape. Black holes that can be billions of times more massive than our sun may reside at the heart of most galaxies. Such supermassive black holes are so powerful that activity at their boundaries can ripple throughout their host galaxies. Now, an international team, led by researchers at MIT’s Haystack Observatory, has for the first time measured the radius of a black hole at the center of a distant galaxy—the closest distance at which matter can approach before being irretrievably pulled into the black hole. The scientists linked together radio dishes in Hawaii, Arizona and California to create a telescope array called the “Event Horizon Telescope” (EHT) that can see details 2,000 times finer than what’s visible to the Hubble Space Telescope. These radio dishes were trained on M87, a galaxy some 50 million light years from the Milky Way. M87 harbors a black hole 6 billion times more massive than our sun; using this array, the team observed the glow of matter near the edge of this black hole—a region known as the “event horizon.” “Once objects fall through the event horizon, they’re lost forever,” says Shep Doeleman, assistant director at the MIT Haystack Observatory and research associate at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. “It’s an exit door from our universe. You walk through that door, you’re not coming back.” Doeleman and his colleagues have published the results of their study this week in the journal Science. Supermassive black holes are the most extreme objects predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity—where, according to Doeleman, “gravity completely goes haywire and crushes an enormous mass into an incredibly close space.” At the edge of a black hole, the gravitational force is so strong that it pulls in everything from its surroundings. However, not everything can cross the event horizon to squeeze into a black hole. The result is a “cosmic traffic jam” in which gas and dust build up, creating a flat pancake of matter known as an accretion disk. This disk of matter orbits the black hole at nearly the speed of light, feeding the black hole a steady diet of superheated material. Over time, this disk can cause the black hole to spin in the same direction as the orbiting material.

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8 thoughts on “Mouth of Giant Black Hole Measured for First Time

  1. Sepp Hasslberger

    “Over time, this disk can cause the black hole to spin in the same direction as the orbiting material.”

    That’s a chicken and egg problem. What came first, the black hole or the orbiting material?

    It would seem that black holes must be rotating awfully fast before they can even attract any material. So the black hole (the chicken) must be first in this case…

    Check out Nassim Haramein at

    1. Xeno Post author

      A black hole starts as a star, a chicken starts as an egg. All stars attract additional mass because they have mass. Mass attracts mass. Spin isn’t required to attract mass, afaik. Faster spin does not mean more gravity. More mass does. If a star has enough mass, nothing can escape its gravity, not even light.

      There is no chicken and egg problem: The orbiting material orbits a pre-black hole star first.

      We are material orbiting a star, of course, but our sun isn’t big enough to become a black hole… Even after it swells up and eats us.

      1. Sepp Hasslberger

        The problem is, how does the mass concentrate to begin with. Obviously it won’t concentrate if there isn’t some kind of seed there. How did the star form, in other words. We are getting an idea that stars are formed at the center of a galaxy, in a way that somehow involves the action of the black hole that resides there.

        Spin provides the seed for any accumulation of matter to form. It does that by providing a vortex, which tends to concentrate matter in one point. There is no star, no planet, no galaxy without that spin. We know now that all galaxies have a black hole at the center. We haven’t gotten around to find the black hole in stars and planets yet…

        1. Xeno Post author

          Mass concentrates without spin. Two completely still magnets still attract. I haven’t seen any evidence that spin is an attractive force. You get orbiting and spinning when any two randomly moving masses attract and “miss” hitting each other directly. The spin is a result of attraction, not the cause of it.

        2. Sepp Hasslberger

          I suppose we will just have to disagree on that one.

          In my book, spin is the basic force that will allow the formation of particles and of accumulations of particles which we see in star systems and galaxies.

          Time will show…

        3. Xeno Post author

          Found something interesting in checking if I might be wrong: Is gravity a pseudo force caused by space time “spinning” in another dimension/inertial frame?

          “yogi Mar24-04, 01:19 AM If you are in a rotating cylinder – and didn’t know it, you would find a mysterious pseudo force pressing you against the wall of the cylinder – your body wants to go in a straignt line, but can’t because its being forced to move in a circle by the walls of the rotating cylinder. So you could consider yourself as being centrifuged – but from the standpoint of there being an independent force other than centripital, there is none in the usual context of mechanical physics. Feynman in his first volume suggested that gravity might be a pseudo force – these forces are always proportional to mass just as is gravity and inertia. Feynman then muses that perhaps we experience gravity because in some way we may not exist in an inertial frame.”

          I don’t think spinning a mass or not increases or decreases its gravity, but is gravity itself the result of all mass wanting to continue in a “straight line” with reference to all other mass? You’d have to step out of this dimension to see the spin to which I’m referring.

          A common misconception is that anything spinning has gravity due to its spin. If the earth was not spinning your weight might very slightly INCREASE, but it would not decrease. The gravity of a non-spinning earth would be the same. Spin does not create or change gravity… Unless the spinning causes you to eject mass. Mass causes gravity.

        4. Sepp Hasslberger

          That’s a difficult one (centrifugal force). Had a long discussion some time back with an alt physics crowd. My takeaway was that centrifugal force is not a force but merely a result of inertia (the tendency to want to move in a straight line, rather than in a circle. Something that forces a circular movement “bends” the natural course of a mass which is straight or nearly so, and thereby gives rise to a counter-force which we call centrifugal, but which is really due to inertia.

          I’m not saying we know what inertia exactly is, either. Neither do we know what causes gravity. This is all still in discussion and development. You won’t hear those questions in mainstream science as the tendency is to pretend we know it all already.

          What we DO know and can demonstrate is that a vortex (which is a result of spin) has a tendency to concentrate, rather than disperse. You have seen depictions of a funnel that gets smaller and smaller at one end, and where the matter that’s being moved is rotating faster and faster the closer to the center point you get.

          Gravity is usually associated with a mass (particles of matter) but the mechanism by which it works isn’t clear yet.

          Accumulations of matter like a planet or a star exhibit gravity, but it wasn’t gravity that got them to exist in the first place. There is a missing link there, which in my view is the centripetal force of a space-time vortex, brought about by spin. You might ask what causes spin to create a space-time vortex. It is another one of those things that will have to wait for resolution until we know some more physics basics.

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