Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2001 October 29
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Spinning Black Holes and MCG-6-30-15
Drawing Credit: XMM-Newton, ESA, NASA

Explanation: What makes the core of galaxy MCG-6-30-15 so bright? Some astronomers believe the answer is a massive spinning black hole. If so, this would be the first observational indication that it is possible to make a black hole act like a battery -- and tap into its rotational energy. MCG-6-30-15 is a distant galaxy that has recently been observed with the orbiting XMM-Newton satellite in X-ray light. These observations show the galaxy's nucleus not only to be very bright but also to show evidence that much of the light is climbing out of a deep gravitational well. A spinning black hole could explain both effects. A strong magnetic field could be the mediator transferring rotational energy from the black hole to the surrounding gas. Pictured above is an artist's illustration of a black hole surrounded by an accretion disk. For clarity, the illustration does not include distorting gravitational lens effects.

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
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