Strong Winds Around Black Holes Largely Affect Their Environment – New Study

чAstronomers have evidence that black holes might tear apart and “devour” entire stars and it happens more frequently than it was previously assumed.

Such ‘consuming activities’ must have a strong influence on environment around the black holes.

New research delivers the first evidence of strong winds around black holes throughout bright outburst events when a black hole rapidly consumes mass.

Illustration of strong winds disrupting the outer disc of material surrounding a stellar-mass black hole (Image: NASA/Swift/A. Simonnet, Sonoma State University)

“Winds must blow away a large fraction of the matter a black hole could eat,’’ said Bailey Tetarenko, a University of Alberta PhD student and lead author on the study. “In one of our models, the winds removed 80 per cent of the black hole’s potential meal.”

An international team of researchers, led by scientists in the University of Alberta’s Department of Physics, examined data from three international space agencies spanning 20 years, and studied outbursts from stellar-mass black hole X-ray binary systems.

NASA illustration

They found evidence of consistent and strong winds surrounding black holes throughout outbursts.

Additionally they observed that – depending on black holes’ size – stellar-mass black holes have the capacity to consume everything within a 3 to 150 kilometer radius.

“Not even light can escape from this close to a black hole,” explained Gregory Sivakoff, an associate professor of physics and co-author. Other, much larger black holes, called supermassive black holes, appear to have affected the formation of entire galaxies.“

“But even supermassive black holes are smaller than our solar system. While they are small, black holes can have surprisingly large effects,” explained Sivakoff.

The question remains: what exactly causes these winds in space? For now, astronomers are not able to solve the mystery.

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