NASA announced earlier this week that astronomers using the Chandra X-ray Observatory observed the fastest winds ever blowing off a disk around a stellar-mass black hole. These observations shed some new light on the mysterious black holes and how they behave.
So what kind of speed does it take to break a record? How does 20 million mph strike you? Speeds like that are hard to fathom. To put in perspective that is 3% of the speed of light. Ashley King, of the University of Michigan is quoted in the NASA press release as saying, “This is like the cosmic equivalent of winds from a category five hurricane.” Ashley was the lead in the study which was published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Stellar-mass black holes are created when a super massive stars collapse. These are stars are usually about 10 times the mass of the sun. An interesting point about this discovery oddly enough, was that this particular black hole was behaving like black holes with much higher mass. “It’s a surprise this small black hole is able to muster the wind speeds we typically only see in the giant black holes,” said co-author Jon M. Miller, also from the University of Michigan. “In other words, this black hole is performing well above its weight class.”
There were several unexpected findings surrounding this observation. For instance, the wind seems to be carrying more material away from the black hole than it is taking in. Unlike hurricane winds here on earth, the stellar-mass black hole winds travel in all directions.
For more information about the Chandra X-ray Observatory, visit http://www.nasa.gov/chandra.