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Scientists Detect Rapid Temperature Fluctuations in Black Hole 'Winds' for the First Time

Mar 21, 2017 08:03 AM EDT
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Scientists from Caltech have made one of the most detailed analysis of "winds" coming from huge black holes and the incredible amount of heat coming from them.

The researchers studies a black hole located in the galaxy IRAS 13224-3809, which has some of the fastest "winds" ever recorded. Interestingly, the Caltech scientists found out that these fluctuations even happen on a periodical basis.

Fiona Harrison from Caltech said that scientists are already aware that black holes affect the immediate surroundings of their galaxies. However, according to Science Alert, they have not made observations at such a close range.

The study, published in the journal Nature, revealed that with the help of NASA's NuSTAR and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton telescopes, the heart of the galaxy can travel up to 0.24 times faster than the speed of light, at 71,000 kilometers per second. This means that the wind or "ultra-fast outflow" generated by black holes is one of the fastest wind blasts ever recorded. 

According to ESA, the X-rays from the black holes actually interact with iron and magnesium in the "wind," which heats up until they cannot absorb more X-rays. By the time the winds cool down, they will absorb X-rays again and the cycle continues.

Supermassive black holes at the center of most galaxies also have gas and dust lying around their accretion disks. Unlike air movements on planets like the Earth, researchers said these ultra-fast "winds" from black holes may be the result of cosmic "indigeston."

Erin Kara from the University of Maryland explained that with this discovery, it can be hypothesized that if black holes consume matter too quickly, they "release" the ultra fast wind. In fact, these are so fast that they may even block stars from being formed.

"Although we have seen these outflows before, this observation was the first time we were able to see the launching of the gases being connected with changes in the luminosity of black holes," Kara said.

This study is a crucial find for black hole experts as they are now seeing a clearer picture of just how the black hole's feeding process may affect other matter around them, especially stars.

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