Ergosphere


Ergosphere

The ergosphere is a region located outside a rotating black hole. Its name is derived from the Greek word ergon, which means “work”. It received this name because it is theoretically possible to extract energy and mass from the black hole in this region.

The ergosphere is ellipsoidal in shape and is situated so that at the poles of rotating black hole it touches the event horizon and stretches out to a distance that is equal to the radius of the event horizon. Within the ergosphere spacetime is dragged along in the direction of the rotation of the black hole at a speed greater than the speed of light in relation to the rest of the universe. This process is known as the Lense-Thirring effect or frame-dragging. Because of this dragging effect objects within the ergosphere are not stationary with respect to the rest of the universe, unless they travel faster than the speed of light, which is impossible based on the laws of physics. Another result of this dragging of space is the existence of negative energies within the ergosphere.

The outer limit of the ergosphere is the stationary limit. At the stationary limit objects moving at the speed of light are stationary with respect to the rest of the universe. This is because the space here is being dragged at exactly the speed of light relative to the rest of space. Outside this limit space is still dragged, but at a rate less than the speed of light.

Since the ergosphere is outside the event horizon, it is still possible for objects to escape from the gravitational pull of the black hole. An object can gain energy by entering the black hole’s rotation and then escaping from it, thus taking some of the black hole's energy with it. This process of removing energy from a rotating black hole was proposed by the mathematician Roger Penrose in 1969, and is called the Penrose process. The theoretical maximum of possible energy extraction is 29% of the total energy of a rotating black hole. Once this energy is removed the black hole loses its spin and the ergosphere no longer exists. This process is considered a possible explanation for a source of energy of such energetic phenomena as gamma ray bursts. Results from computer models show that the Penrose Process is capable of producing the high energy particles that are observed being emitted from quasars and other active galactic nuclei.

References

*http://nrumiano.free.fr/Estars/bh_thermo.html
*http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2002astro.ph..3421W
*http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/E/ergosphere.html
*http://astro.cornell.edu/academics/courses/astro201/ergosphere.htm


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