Black holes seem to know their place in the cosmic web

6 Degree Field galaxy survey (6dFGS) map of 125,071 galaxies in the nearby universe, showing how they are clustered together. [Credit: C. Fluke/6dF Survey]

6 Degree Field galaxy survey (6dFGS) map of 125,071 galaxies in the nearby universe, showing how they are clustered together. [Credit: C. Fluke/6dF Survey]

A study of 19 quasars — extremely bright black holes at the centers of galaxies — showed the matter swirling around them spins in accordance with where they reside. Galaxies form a vast network of clumps and filaments connecting them, the cosmic web known as the large-scale structure of the Universe. Researchers found that at least some galaxies spin with their axes aligned with the structure, and a new paper demonstrates that the disks surrounding some black holes may do the same. That adds an extra step to the slow gravitational dance of galaxies, as I explain in my latest for The Daily Beast:

Now, a new observation seems to show that black holes also behave according to their place in the cosmic web. In at least some cases, the disk of matter spinning around a black hole seems to be aligned with cosmic structure, based on these measurements. That means that two galaxies separated by billions of light-years could have black hole disks spinning in the same direction, even though they never were in the same place and couldn’t influence each other. The sample is pretty small—only 19 black holes showed this alignment—but the agreement with earlier galaxy results shows something interesting may be going on. [Read more….]

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3 Responses to “Black holes seem to know their place in the cosmic web”


  1. 1 Masoud Ahmed November 24, 2014 at 10:39

    Still a mystery to me.

  2. 2 Ry Yelcho November 24, 2014 at 13:13

    If our universe, in a reference frame of a multiverse, had spin, that spin may be able to influence the spin of objects inside.

    • 3 Matthew R. Francis November 24, 2014 at 13:21

      These objects aren’t all spinning in the same direction, though. They’re aligned with each other if they’re part of the same structure, but the structures aren’t parallel.


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