NASA discovers black hole with 20 million mile-per-hour winds

Shane McGlaun - Feb 22, 2012
NASA discovers black hole with 20 million mile-per-hour winds

The NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory has discovered a black hole in a binary system called IGR J17091. Apparently, the system is located in the bulge of the Milky Way galaxy and is about 28,000 light years from Earth. That's a good thing too, because the black hole seriously blows. According to NASA calculations, the gas wind blowing away from the black hole is traveling at 20 million mph.

It's hard to wrap your head around 20,000,000 mph, that works out to about 3% of the speed of light. The wind coming from the black hole travels about 10 times faster than any other winds that have been recorded from a stellar-mass black hole. The wind matches that of some of the fastest winds generated by supermassive black holes, which are billions of times more massive than the IGR J17091 black hole.

If you're wondering how a celestial object with gravity so powerful that light can't escape can generate wind, the wind originates from a disk of gas that surrounds the black hole. Another amazing fact is that the super fast wind may be carrying away more material than the black hole is capturing. This would be the perfect place to hoist those solar sails.

"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 IGR J17091 is expelled by the wind," says Ashley King from the University of Michigan.

[via TG Daily]

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