- Press Release Distribution

Monitoring of radio galaxy M87 confirms black hole spin

Monitoring of radio galaxy M87 confirms black hole spin

The nearby radio galaxy M87, located 55 million light-years from the Earth and harboring a black hole 6.5 billion times more massive than the Sun, exhibits an oscillating jet that swings up and down with an amplitude of about 10 degrees, confirming the black hole's spin.

The study, which was headed by Chinese researcher Dr. CUI Yuzhu and published in Nature on Sept. 27, was conducted by an international team using a global network of radio telescopes.

Through extensive analysis of telescope data from 2000­–2022, the research team revealed a recurring 11-year cycle in the precessional motion of the jet base, as predicted by Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. The study links the dynamics of the jet with the central supermassive black hole, offering evidence that M87's black hole spins.

Supermassive black holes at the center of active galaxies—the most disruptive celestial objects in our universe—can accrete tremendous amounts of material due to the extraordinary gravitational force and power of plasma outflows, known as jets, that approach the speed of light and extend thousands of light-years away.

The energy transfer mechanism among supermassive black holes and their accretion disks and relativistic jets has puzzled physicists and astronomers for over a century. A prevailing theory suggests that energy can be extracted from a spinning black hole, allowing some material surrounding the supermassive black hole to be ejected with great energy. However, the spin of supermassive black holes, a crucial factor in this process and the most fundamental parameter other than black hole mass, had not been directly observed.

In this study, the research team focused on M87, where the first observational astrophysical jet was observed in 1918. Thanks to its proximity, the jet formation regions close to the black hole can be resolved in detail with Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), as represented by recent black hole shadow imaging with the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). By analyzing VLBI data from M87 obtained over the last 23 years, the team detected the periodic precessional jet at its base, offering insight into the status of the central black hole.

At the heart of this discovery lies the critical question: What force in the universe can alter the direction of such a powerful jet? The answer could be hidden in the behavior of the accretion disk, a configuration related to the central supermassive black hole. As infalling materials orbit the black hole due to their angular momenta, they form a disk-like structure before gradually spiraling inwards until they are fatefully drawn into the black hole. However, if the black hole is spinning, it exerts a significant impact on surrounding spacetime, causing nearby objects to be dragged along its axis of rotation, a phenomenon known as "frame-dragging," which was predicted by Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.

The research team's extensive analysis indicates that the rotational axis of the accretion disk misaligns with the black hole's spin axis, leading to a precessional jet. Detecting this precession provides unequivocal evidence that the supermassive black hole in M87 is indeed spinning, thus enhancing our understanding of the nature of supermassive black holes.

"We are thrilled by this significant finding," said CUI Yuzhu, a postdoctoral researcher at Zhejiang Lab, a research institution in Hangzhou, and lead and corresponding author of the paper. "Since the misalignment between the black hole and the disk is relatively small and the precession period is around 11 years, accumulating high-resolution data tracing M87's structure over two decades and thorough analysis are essential to obtain this achievement."

"After the success of black hole imaging in this galaxy with the EHT, whether this black hole is spinning or not has been a central concern among scientists," added Dr. Kazuhiro Hada from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. "Now anticipation has turned into certainty. This monster black hole is indeed spinning."

This work made use of a total of 170 epochs of observations obtained by the East Asian VLBI Network (EAVN), the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), the joint array of KVN and VERA (KaVA), and the East Asia to Italy Nearly Global (EATING) network. In total, more than 20 telescopes across the globe contributed to this study.

Radio telescopes in China also made contribution to this project, including China's Tianma 65-meter radio telescope with its huge dish and high sensitivity at millimeter wavelengths. In addition, Xinjiang 26-meter radio telescope enhances the angular resolution of EAVN observations. The good quality data with both high sensitivity and high angular resolution are essential to obtain this achievement.

"The in-building Shigatse 40-meter radio telescope by Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, will further improve the imaging capability of EAVN at millimeters. Especially, the Tibetan Plateau, where the telescope is located, owns one of the most excellent site conditions for (sub-)millimeter wavelength observations. It fulfills our expectations to promote domestic sub-millimeter facilities for astronomical observations," said Prof. SHEN Zhiqiang, Director of the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

While this study sheds light on the mysterious world of supermassive black holes, it also presents formidable challenges. The accretion disk's structure and the exact value of the M87 supermassive black hole's spin are still highly uncertain. This work also predicts that there will be more sources with this configuration, thus challenging scientists to discover them.


[Attachments] See images for this press release:
Monitoring of radio galaxy M87 confirms black hole spin Monitoring of radio galaxy M87 confirms black hole spin 2 Monitoring of radio galaxy M87 confirms black hole spin 3


Desalination system could produce freshwater that is cheaper than tap water

Desalination system could produce freshwater that is cheaper than tap water
Engineers at MIT and in China are aiming to turn seawater into drinking water with a completely passive device that is inspired by the ocean, and powered by the sun.  In a paper appearing today in the journal Joule, the team outlines the design for a new solar desalination system that takes in saltwater and heats it with natural sunlight.  The configuration of the device allows water to circulate in swirling eddies, in a manner similar to the much larger “thermohaline” circulation of the ocean. This circulation, ...

Protecting lands slows biodiversity loss among vertebrates by five times

Protecting lands slows biodiversity loss among vertebrates by five times
Protecting large swaths of Earth’s land can help stem the tide of biodiversity loss—including for vertebrates like amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds, according to a new study published in Nature Sept. 27. The study, led by the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) and Conservation International, emphasizes the importance of proper governance for the success of protected lands, and offers much-needed support for the United Nations’ “30 by 30” initiative to conserve the ...

How an audience changes a songbird’s brain

How an audience changes a songbird’s brain
NEW YORK, NY — His mind might have been set on finding water or on perfecting a song he learned as a chick from his dad. But all of that gets pushed down the to-do list for an adult male zebra finch when he notices a female has drawn nigh.    “The males stop worrying about anything else and, for the first time, we have found signs of that re-prioritization in the behavior of specific brain cells,” said Vikram Gadagkar, PhD, a principal investigator at Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute and a co-first author, along with graduate student Andrea Roeser of Cornell ...

Organic lasers have a bright future

Scientists at St Andrews are leading a significant breakthrough in a decades-long challenge to develop compact laser technology. Lasers are used across the world for a huge range of applications in communications, medicine, surveying, manufacturing and measurement.  They are used to transmit information across the internet, for medical treatments, and even in the face scanner on phones.  Most of these lasers are made from rigid, brittle, semiconductor crystals such as gallium arsenide. Organic semiconductors are a newer class of electronic material. Flexible, based on carbon and emitting visible ...

Women’s mood worsens during ‘pill pause’ period of monthly contraceptive pill cycle

Type of work: peer-reviewed/observational study/people Barcelona: Most contraceptive pills are based on a cycle of taking the pill for 21 days, and then stopping the pill for 7 days. Now researchers have found that women’s mood worsens during the 7 pill-free days. This work will be presented at the ECNP congress in Barcelona on 8th October, after recent publication (see notes). Lead researcher, Professor Belinda Angela Pletzer (of Paris Lodron University, Salzburg, Austria) said “We investigated women’s mental health during the pill pause in long-term pill users: since they are long-term ...

Teams investigate material degradation process of carbon-based catalyst

Teams investigate material degradation process of carbon-based catalyst
Although a plethora of carbon-based catalysts have been developed to promote oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in different electrochemical systems, the degradation process of those catalysts remains obscure to date. During certain steps of the ORR on a catalyst's surface in electrochemical systems, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is generated. This compound can be detrimental to the catalyst itself because the highly oxidative species produced from H2O2 can attack different moieties of the catalyst, leading to the degradation of its chemical structure. A team of researchers has elucidated how H2O2 affects the degradation of a carbon-based catalyst named N-G/MOF. This catalyst ...

Team examines importance of zeolite in catalysts for syngas conversion

Team examines importance of zeolite in catalysts for syngas conversion
The fuels used today depend heavily on petroleum. As the demand grows, scientists are looking for ways to produce fuels that do not require petroleum. A research team set out to examine the role of zeolites in the conversion of synthetic gas to fuels. Wanting to better understand how zeolites regulate the reaction pathways, they reviewed the most recent advancements in synthetic gas conversion with catalysts containing zeolites.   Their review paper is published in the journal Carbon Future on July 28, 2023.   As an alternative ...

AI chest X-ray model analysis reveals race and sex bias

OAK BROOK, Ill. – An AI chest X-ray foundation model for disease detection demonstrated racial and sex-related bias leading to uneven performance across patient subgroups and may be unsafe for clinical applications, according to a study published today in Radiology: Artificial Intelligence, a journal of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). The study aims to highlight the potential risks for using foundation models in the development of medical imaging artificial intelligence. “There’s ...

Integration propels machine vision

Integration propels machine vision
A joint research team in China wrote a review on in-sensor visual computing, a three-in-one hardware solution that is more efficient, economical and secure than conventional machine vision systems, which collect, store, and interpret visual signals on separate hardware units. This review was published Sept. 26 in Intelligent Computing, a Science Partner Journal. In-sensor visual computing systems are inspired by how humans and other mammals collect, extract and process visual signals, an intricate biological mechanism showing low latency and low energy cost. By integrating sensing, storage and computation onto the ...

Blocking abnormal stem cell signal during aging lessens related bone loss

A cellular signal essential to the development of the skeleton increases during aging to weaken bones, finds a new study in mice.  The study, led by researchers from NYU Grossman School of Medicine, found that blocking the signaling pathway, called Notch, in aging skeletal stem cells caused a “massive increase” in bone mass and restored lost bone-healing ability during aging.    The study results revolve around immature stem cells, which have the capacity to mature into more than one cell type. Bone is among the tissues that keep pools of stem cells on hand into adulthood, ready to mature into replacement cells that maintain healthy tissue and repair ...


ASH: Novel combination therapy significantly reduces spleen volume in patients with myelofibrosis

ASH: Novel menin inhibitors show promise for patients with advanced acute myeloid leukemias

ASH: Targeted oral therapy reduced disease burden and improved symptoms for patients with rare blood disorder

New Sylvester cancer study provides insight into underlying gene mutations in myelodysplastic syndromes

First-in-human clinical trial of CAR T cell therapy with new binding mechanism shows promising early responses

Long-term results show combination treatment that skips chemotherapy is effective for older patients with Ph+ ALL

Mindfulness could help women with opioid use disorder better control drug urges

TTUHSC’s ARPA-H membership will spur innovation, improve access for West Texas patients

Global annual finance flows of $7 trillion fueling climate, biodiversity, and land degradation crises

Tracing how the infant brain responds to touch with near-infrared spectroscopy

These are the world's most effective charities

When is an aurora not an aurora?

Advisory panel issues field-defining recommendations for US government investments in particle physics research

Doctors discover many patients at UNC’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinic screen positive for malnutrition

BNL: Advisory panel issues field-defining recommendations for U.S. government investments in particle physics research

International collaboration uses faculty member’s research on ancient Roman migration, seeks to understand Balkan genomic history

USF Health Heart Institute doctors are upbeat about cardiac regeneration

AI-driven breakthroughs in cells study: SFU-UBC collaboration introduces "MCS-detect" for advancements in super-resolution microscopy

Advisory panel issues field-defining recommendations for investments in particle physics research

$3.8 million NIH grant to fund Southwest Center on Resilience for Climate Change and Health

What happens when the brain loses a hub? 

Study reveals Zika’s shape-shifting machinery—and a possible vulnerability

RIT leading STEM co-mentoring network

Genetic mutations that promote reproduction tend to shorten human lifespan, study shows

CAMH develops potential new drug treatment for multiple sclerosis

Polyethylene waste could be a thing of the past

A dynamic picture of how we respond to high or low oxygen levels

University of Toronto researchers discover new lipid nanoparticle that shows muscle-specific mRNA delivery, reduces off-target effects.

Evolving insights in blood-based liquid biopsies for prostate cancer interrogation

Finding the most heat-resistant substances ever made

[] Monitoring of radio galaxy M87 confirms black hole spin