Scientists have discovered a black hole speed limit that could reveal new laws of physics

Black holes can become gravitationally bound to each other and collide or recede.
NRAO/AUI/NSF, S. Dagnello

  • Scientists have calculated that black holes move through the universe at 17,500 miles per second.
  • That’s one-tenth the speed of light, according to a study published in the journal Physical Review Letters.
  • The discovery could reveal brand new laws of physics, an expert said.

Scientists have calculated the possible speed limit in the universe. And it can provide a window into new laws of physics.

The speed limit is related to black holes—objects in space so dense that their gravity permanently captures anything that gets too close, including light. That’s why black holes appear black.

When two black holes are gravitationally locked to each other, they either collide or move backwards. If they go backwards and fly into space, what is the maximum speed?

Two scientists have recently answered this question study Published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters. Scientists have estimated the recoil velocity limit for black holes to be 63 million miles per hour.

That’s roughly 17,500 miles per second, or one-tenth speed of light. It is fast enough to orbit the Earth in 1.4 seconds.

A window into the new laws of physics

The world’s first picture of a black hole. An orange ring is a cloud of superheated material absorbed into a black hole.
Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

Carlos Lousto, co-author of the study, emphasized the enormous implications of the discovery.

„We’re just scratching the surface of something that might be a universal explanation,” said Lustow, a professor of mathematics and statistics at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Direct science.

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The newly discovered speed limit could change how we understand everything „from the smallest objects to the largest objects in the universe,” he added.

Loustow and his colleague used Einstein’s theories of general relativity to simulate how two interacting black holes would change over time.

A system in which two black holes interact.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

They ran 1,381 different simulations, varying small factors like the closest approach to each one and the speed of rotation (yes, black holes spin).

They calculated that the maximum speed limit for receding black holes is about 63 million mph. But that’s according to the equations established by the laws of physics we know and love today.

What if astronomers observe black holes that exceed this speed limit, retreating at speeds greater than 63 million mph? A mystery like this may force scientists to turn to new, unknown laws of physics for an explanation.

This isn’t the first time a discovery has upended physics as we know it.

There are still some important pending mysteries that indicate that scientists’ current model of physics is missing something.

New particles, more wobbly particles, and evidence that the universe is expanding faster than expected all lead to new physics.

Probing black holes that break the speed limit is an opportunity to find more clues about what’s going on in our universe.

„It will be interesting to see if nature violates this in some circumstances that represent a departure from our understanding of how black holes work,” Imre Bartós, a physics professor at the University of Florida who was not involved in the study, told Live. Science.

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