This artist's impression shows a binary system containing a stellar-mass black hole known as IGR J17091 for short. Observations with Chandra have clocked the fastest wind ever seen blowing off a disk around this stellar-mass black hole at about 20 million miles per hour. The wind, which comes from a disk of gas surrounding the black hole, may be carrying away much more material than the black hole is capturing and could be variable over time. This result has important implications for understanding how this class of black hole, which typically weighs between 5 and 10 solar masses, can behave. (Credit: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss)

ScienceDaily (Feb. 21, 2012) — Astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have clocked the fastest wind yet discovered blowing off a disk around a stellar-mass black hole. This result has important implications for understanding how this type of black hole behaves.

The record-breaking wind is moving about 20 million mph, or about 3 percent of the speed of light. This is nearly 10 times faster than had ever been seen from a stellar-mass black hole.

Stellar-mass black holes are born when extremely massive stars collapse. They typically weigh between five and 10 times the mass of the Sun. The stellar-mass black hole powering this super wind is known as IGR J17091-3624, or IGR J17091 for short.

"This is like the cosmic equivalent of winds from a category five hurricane," said Ashley King from the University of Michigan, lead author of the study published in the Feb. 20 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters. "We weren't expecting to see such powerful winds from a black hole like this."

The wind speed in IGR J17091 matches some of the fastest winds generated by supermassive black holes, objects millions or billions of times more massive.

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