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20 Million MPH Winds Recorded Near Stellar-Mass Black Hole

by Brandon Russell | February 26, 2012February 26, 2012 2:30 pm PST

Black Hole WindSpace. It’s vast and mysterious and kind of makes my head spin just thinking about all that dust, rocks and gas. For all of mankind’s discoveries, there’s still a whole lot to it that remains a mystery. Is there life on other planets? Other Earths? Another me? While those answers are likely a ways off, NASA has managed to find plenty of cool stuff in its exploration of the unknown. Like, for example, a cosmic hurricane currently producing 20 million mph winds – that’s three percent of the speed of light. On Earth, we call that a no fly zone.

Discovered by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, the incredible wind speeds were the result of an enormous gas disk around the stellar-mass black hole IGR J17091-3624. Winds of this speed isn’t simply recorded by pointing a speed gun, but based on a spectrum of iron ions.Unsurprisingly, what the Chandra recorded is a galactic record, with a factor of ten greater than anything else previously recorded. Scientists are hoping the new discovery will help them learn more about how stellar-mass black holes behave, which have largely been thought of as gigantic vacuums.

“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,” said the University of Michigan’s Ashley King, lead author of the study published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters earlier this week.

What’s most baffling to scientists is a similar recording by Chandra two months prior to the discovery in 2011 showed no such winds existed, leaving them to theorize the ultra-winds occur cyclically. And here I thought Orange County’s Santa Ana winds were bad.

So, the black hole is not only engulfing mass around it, but expelling matter as well. Imagine the weather report for that. If space is one day the final frontier, I’m not sure I wanna be around to experience these periodic 20 million mph winds.

[via Giz Mag]

Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...