Its good to see something that was proposed back in the 19th century – ‘orbital angular momentum’ by James Maxwell being put to good use – Deskarati
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.
But researchers hadn’t explored in detail the possibility that rotating black holes could also take light for a spin, imparting angular momentum to the radiation, comments Martin Bojowald of Pennsylvania State University in University Park. “The black hole influences spacetime in such a way that light with net orbital angular momentum is automatically produced,” he says.
Light waves are made up of crests and troughs. Those light waves that travel in unison and unimpeded through space have wave fronts — the imaginary surface over which the crest of one wave lines up with the crest of another — that are planes. In contrast, when light passes near a black hole, each photon acquires a twist that alters the wave surface from a plane to a spiral staircase centered around the direction of travel of the light beam.
“What is new and exciting is the proposal that the effect is actually measurable for the black hole at the center of our galaxy,” says Saul Teukolsky of Cornell University.