Milky Way’s Black Hole Now Spinning At Top Speed, Are We In Danger?

By Zack Zagranis | Published

As weird as it sounds, black holes spin just like planets. Much like Earth, a black hole rotates at a speed determined by its surface gravity. For every object that turns, there is a maximum rate at which it can do so, and according to Science Alert, researchers have discovered the black hole in the middle of the Milky Way is now spinning at that rate.

The Black Hole At The Center Of The Milky Way Galaxy Has Reached Top Speed

Milky Way

While it would spell certain doom for humanity if the Earth began spinning as fast as it could, for black holes, it is a little bit different. A planet spinning at its maximum rate of rotation would be pulled apart by gravity until there was nothing but little chunks of planet drifting through the cosmos. Black holes, however, don’t have a physical surface and aren’t made of any kind of material that can fly apart at top speeds.

Black Holes Spin Much Faster Than Planets

The spin of a black hole is determined by an effect known as frame dragging. When the Earth spins on its axis, it twists the space around itself ever so slightly, AKA frame dragging. Black holes have no physical matter to rotate and, therefore, twist a greater portion of spacetime around themselves as they spin. Therefore, the upper limit of how fast a black hole can spin isn’t measured by the point where the whole thing would be torn apart but rather by the inherent properties of space and time itself.

A new study on the rotation of the supermassive black hole in our galaxy has determined that it’s moving at almost the highest speed possible. Einstein determined that a black hole’s spin is measured by a quantity referred to as “a,” which will always have a value between 0 and 1. If a black hole isn’t spinning at all, then a = 0. If a black hole is spinning at top speed, then a=1.

Researchers Studied Distortion In The Black Hole’s Light To Measure Speed

black hole

The new study examined the amount of distortion measured in the light near the black hole. Researchers were then able to estimate how much the Milky Way‘s black hole is currently spinning and found that it’s spinning at a rate of between 0.84 and 0.96—extremely close to its maximum rotation. While the black hole spinning at full blast in the center of our galaxy doesn’t pose a threat, it may someday actually be the key to our salvation.

Can We Use The Energy Created By This Black Hole?

black holes

Scientists have long debated whether or not the energy being output by spinning black holes could be harnessed and put to good use elsewhere. A recent suggestion in the scientific community is that the energy from a black hole could possibly be harnessed by breaking and then recombining magnetic field lines in the black hole’s ergosphere—the region located just outside a spinning black hole’s outer event horizon.

Harnessing Black Holes With Technology Is A Futuristic Endeavor

nasa black hole

Of course, the technology needed to perform such an operation won’t be developed until long after anyone reading this has passed on—if at all—but it’s still comforting to know that our great-great-great-great-ancestors might finally figure out how to get energy without burning fossil fuels.