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Science File | IN BRIEF

Spinning Black Holes Releasing Energy

October 29, 2001

For the first time, astronomers have seen a super-massive black hole releasing energy into the gases around it. The discovery indicates that the black hole is spinning rapidly, so that its magnetic fields squeeze surrounding gas clouds, heating them and causing them to glow more brightly and release X-ray energy.

The black hole is called MCG-6-30-15, and it lies more than 100 million light-years from Earth. It has a mass equivalent to 1 million to 10 million suns compressed into a space much smaller than our solar system. The discovery was made by University of Colorado researchers. More information is available at http:// www.gsfc.nasa.gov/topstory/20011015blackhole.html .

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Compiled by Times medical writer Thomas H. Maugh II

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