1932

Abstract

The spin of a black hole is an important quantity to study, providing a window into the processes by which a black hole was born and grew. Furthermore, spin can be a potent energy source for powering relativistic jets and energetic particle acceleration. In this review, I describe the techniques currently used to detect and measure the spins of black holes. It is shown that:

  • ▪   Two well-understood techniques, X-ray reflection spectroscopy and thermal continuum fitting, can be used to measure the spins of black holes that are accreting at moderate rates. There is a rich set of other electromagnetic techniques allowing us to extend spin measurements to lower accretion rates.
  • ▪   Many accreting supermassive black holes are found to be rapidly spinning, although a population of more slowly spinning black holes emerges at masses above as expected from recent structure formation models.
  • ▪   Many accreting stellar-mass black holes in X-ray binary systems are rapidly spinning and must have been born in this state.
  • ▪   The advent of gravitational wave astronomy has enabled the detection of spin effects in merging binary black holes. Most of the premerger black holes are found to be slowly spinning, a notable exception being an object that may itself be a merger product.
  • ▪   The stark difference in spins between the black hole X-ray binary and the binary black hole populations shows that there is a diversity of formation mechanisms.

Given the array of new electromagnetic and gravitational wave capabilities currently being planned, the future of black hole spin studies is bright.

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2021-09-08
2024-04-15
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