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Scientists Measure Black Hole's Point of No Return

Sep 28, 2012 07:46 AM EDT

In a first, scientists have measured the closest distance that any matter can reach before they get pulled in by a black hole at the center of a galaxy.

Black hole is a region of spacetime which has a powerful gravitational pull. It is so strong that they draw in all the particles in the surroundings that reach a no point horizon. These black holes are massive than the sun and might be located in the center of the galaxies. 

It is known that once matter falls in, it causes a burst of energy known as relativistic jets that spews out the energy which travels to long distances of thousands of light years across an entire galaxy at approximately the speed of light. As a result, the gas and dust that gather form a ring of matter called as accretion disk which orbits the black hole.

However, there weren't much details to find out as to how exactly the phenomenon occurs. For the first time, an international team of researchers linked three radio dishes in Hawaii, Arizona and California in order to create a telescope array called the "Event Horizon Telescope" (EHT). The EHT gives 2,000 times more clear view than NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, according to a report in MIT News.

They used the dishes to study the galaxy known as M87 that is located some 50 million light years away from our own Milky Way Galaxy. They got a closer look to the matter that is orbiting the black hole present in the center of the M87 galaxy.

By measuring the base of the jets that burst out from the black hole, experts estimated the size of the region where matter is emitted. They found that the size of the jet base was 5.5 times the size of the black hole event horizon, which suggests that the accretion disk is rotating in the same direction as the black hole.

The size of the jet base "reduces to the size we measured only when the black hole is spinning and the accretion disk is orbiting in the same direction," Science quoted Sheperd Doeleman, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Haystack Observatory in Westford, as saying.

"What we find so exciting is that we are now finally able to measure structures so close to the black hole," he said.

Doeleman and his colleagues are further planning to link more radio dishes to increase the resolution and get a clean view of the areas surrounding the black hole and measure its mass.

The findings of the paper are published in the Science journal.

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