Earlier this week astronomers from the University of Michigan published a paper in the journal Nature in which they share how they measured the spin of the most distant black hole to date. Using data from NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory and ESA’s XMM-Newton, they were able to take advantage of a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing to get a clearer view of a quasar known as RX J1131, which is six billion light years away. The gravitational field of a galaxy between us and the black hole is aligned in a way that bends space-time to allow a more magnified view of the X-Ray spectrum of the quasar, which is an object that forms where matter plunges into a large black hole.
Black holes are defined by their mass and their spin, though the latter characteristic has been the more difficult one to study. Depending on how fast or slow a black hole is spinning, astronomers have different theories as to how the hole likely formed. The spin of RX J1131 is very fast, leading scientists to believe that the accompanying black hole may have formed due to the collision of two galaxies.
Luxel built filters for the high resolution camera (HRC) and advanced CCD imaging spectrometer (ACIS) aboard Chandra, which launched in 1999 with the ability to detect X-Rays from more distant objects than ever before. The complete NASA press release about the newly published paper can be read here.