Fresh discovery on black holes

From left, Elissa Curtis, LAET Brady and Mason Parker. Picture: PO Phot Nicola Harper

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GIANT black holes in the centre of galaxies are spinning faster now than at any time in the history of the universe, according to a University of Portsmouth astronomer.

Dr Alejo Martinez-Sansigre, from the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, made the discovery with Professor Steve Rawlings from the University of Oxford.

The astronomers focused on the largest type of black hole, known as a ‘supermassive black hole’.

Black holes are so dense nothing can escape falling into them, even light.

Dr Martinez-Sansigre said: ‘The spin of black holes can tell you a lot about how they formed.

‘Our results suggest that in recent times a large fraction of the most massive black holes has somehow started to spin more rapidly. A likely explanation is that they have merged with other black holes of similar mass.

‘In the past there was much more gas in the universe, which used to decrease the spin of a black hole. A few billion years later and there is less gas – as it gets used up to make stars – and less gas means that on average black holes spin more.’