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Black Hole Winds Reach 20 Million MPH

What's the Latest Development?

Scientists have clocked the winds of a stellar-mass black hole at 20 million miles per hour, nearly 10 times faster than the winds normally associated with this class of black hole. Using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers observed winds blowing off the disk of the stellar-mass black hole, which was formed when an extremely massive star collapsed. "This is like the cosmic equivalent of winds from a category five hurricane," said Ashley King from the University of Michigan. King led the study and said the wind's ferocity was unexpected.  

What's the Big Idea?

Observing the unusually fierce wind patterns around this particular black hole has given astronomers a better understanding of how black holes operate in general. One unanticipated finding was that the winds are carrying as much matter away from the hole as is being gathered by its insurmountable gravity. "Contrary to the popular perception of black holes pulling in all of the material that gets close, we estimate up to 95 percent of the matter in the disk around [the black hole] is expelled by the wind," King said.

Photo credit: shutterstock.com

 

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