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General relativity caught in action around black hole

Wobbling disk of orbiting debris shows yanking and twisting of spacetime

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5:50pm, December 17, 2015
black hole H1743-322

RELATIVITY TEST BED  The black hole H1743-322 is corralling material from a star to form a disk, similar to the setup in this illustration. Researchers studied X-rays from the disk to detect an effect called frame dragging.

GENEVA — An effect of general relativity that is barely measurable on Earth has been spotted in full force around a black hole.

Physicists detected the signature of a black hole twisting the fabric of spacetime around it. The discovery offers the best evidence yet of this relativity-driven twisting effect, known as frame dragging, around a black hole where it is most powerful. The research was reported December 16 at the Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics.

Researchers captured the extreme frame dragging by analyzing X-rays emanating from a disk of star debris swirling around a black hole about 28,000 light-years away in the Milky Way. The data suggest that the disk’s matter is on a wild ride as the spacetime it occupies gets yanked and warped by the spinning black hole.

Albert Einstein’s century-old general theory of relativity describes

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