SCIENCE

Winds From This Massive Black Hole Pack The Energy Of More Than A Trillion Suns

02/20/2015 03:59 pm ET

If you think winter winds are fierce, get this: NASA says new measurements made by a pair of space telescopes show that the winds produced by a black hole known as PDS 456 stream outward at up to one-third the speed of light--and carry more energy every second than is emitted by more than a trillion suns.

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black hole
Artist's illustration showing a supermassive black hole blasting out radiation and ultra-fast winds.

The measurements confirmed that the ultra-fast winds from the supermassive black hole--in this case the core of a super-bright celestial object called a quasar--blow outward in all directions, according to a written statement issued by the space agency. What's more, they show that the winds and the ionized atoms they carry are powerful enough to keep new stars from forming in the host galaxy.

"Now we know quasar winds significantly contribute to mass loss in a galaxy, driving out its supply of gas, which is fuel for star formation," Dr. Emanuele Nardini, a research associate at Keele University in England and the lead author of a new paper about the research, said in the statement.

"It's a very nice observation," Dr. Jenny E. Greene, a Princeton University astrophysicist who was not involved in the new research, told National Geographic.

PDS 456 is more than 2 billion light-years from Earth. The measurements were made by NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuStar) and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton.

The paper was published Feb. 20, 2015 in the journal Science.

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