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Black holes take light for a spin

Newly discovered effect could aid observations of Milky Way's monster

Given how weird black holes are, it’s only fitting that researchers have found a screwy way to detect the rotation of these gravitational monsters. Existing telescopes could be equipped with special detectors to record the twist imprinted on light waves that pass near a rapidly spinning black hole, Bo Thidé of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics in Uppsala and his colleagues report online February 13 in Nature Physics.

The newly discovered effect that spinning black holes have on light waves is a consequence of Einstein’s theory of relativity and based on numerical simulations performed by his team, says Thidé. Researchers had already predicted and found some evidence that rotating black holes and neutron stars stir the fabric of surrounding space and time like pancake batter, an effect known as frame dragging (SN: 9/2/00, p. 150).

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