Telescopes give shape to furious black hole winds

February 19, 2015 by Felicia Chou
Supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies blast out radiation and ultra-fast winds, as illustrated in this artist's conception. NASA's NuSTAR and ESA's XMM-Newton telescopes show that these winds, containing highly ionized atoms, blow in a nearly spherical fashion. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and ESA's (European Space Agency) XMM-Newton telescope are showing that fierce winds from a supermassive black hole blow outward in all directions—a phenomenon that had been suspected, but difficult to prove until now.

This discovery has given astronomers their first opportunity to measure the strength of these ultra-fast winds and prove they are powerful enough to inhibit the host galaxy's ability to make new stars.

"We know black holes in the centers of galaxies can feed on matter, and this process can produce winds. This is thought to regulate the growth of the galaxies," said Fiona Harrison of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California. Harrison is the principal investigator of NuSTAR and a co-author on a new paper about these results appearing in the journal Science. "Knowing the speed, shape and size of the winds, we can now figure out how powerful they are."

Supermassive black holes blast matter into their host galaxies, with X-ray-emitting winds traveling at up to one-third the speed of light. In the new study, astronomers determined PDS 456, an extremely bright black hole known as a quasar more than 2 billion light-years away, sustains winds that carry more energy every second than is emitted by more than a trillion suns.

"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," said the study's lead author, Emanuele Nardini of Keele University in England.

NuSTAR and XMM-Newton simultaneously observed PDS 456 on five separate occasions in 2013 and 2014. The space telescopes complement each other by observing different parts of the X-ray light spectrum: XMM-Newton views low-energy and NuSTAR views high-energy.

Previous XMM-Newton observations had identified black-hole winds blowing toward us, but could not determine whether the winds also blew in all directions. XMM-Newton had detected iron atoms, which are carried by the winds along with other matter, only directly in front of the black hole, where they block X-rays. The scientists combined higher-energy X-ray data from NuSTAR with observations from XMM-Newton. By doing this, they were able to find signatures of iron scattered from the sides, proving the winds emanate from the black hole not in a beam, but in a nearly spherical fashion.

"This is a great example of the synergy between XMM-Newton and NuSTAR," said Norbert Schartel, XMM-Newton project scientist at ESA. "The complementarity of these two X-ray observatories is enabling us to unveil previously hidden details about the powerful side of the universe."

With the shape and extent of the winds known, the researchers could then determine the strength of the winds and the degree to which they can inhibit the formation of new stars.

Astronomers think supermassive black holes and their home galaxies evolve together and regulate each other's growth. Evidence for this comes in part from observations of the central bulges of galaxies—the more massive the central bulge, the larger the .

This latest report demonstrates a supermassive black hole and its high-speed winds greatly affect the host galaxy. As the black hole bulks up in size, its winds push vast amounts of matter outward through the galaxy, which ultimately stops from forming.

Because PDS 456 is relatively close, by cosmic standards, it is bright and can be studied in detail. This black hole gives astronomers a unique look into a distant era of our universe, around 10 billion years ago, when supermassive and their raging winds were more common and possibly shaped galaxies as we see them today.

"For an astronomer, studying PDS 456 is like a paleontologist being given a living dinosaur to study," said co-author Daniel Stern of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. "We are able to investigate the physics of these important systems with a level of detail not possible for those found at more typical distances, during the 'Age of Quasars.'"

Explore further: NuSTAR delivers the X-ray goods

More information: Black hole feedback in the luminous quasar PDS 456, Science, www.sciencemag.org/lookup/doi/10.1126/science.1259202

Related Stories

NuSTAR delivers the X-ray goods

September 3, 2013

(Phys.org) —NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, is giving the wider astronomical community a first look at its unique X-ray images of the cosmos. The first batch of data from the black-hole hunting ...

Image: X-raying the cosmos

April 22, 2014

When we gaze up at the night sky, we are only seeing part of the story. Unfortunately, some of the most powerful and energetic events in the Universe are invisible to our eyes – and to even the best optical telescopes.

Will the real monster black hole please stand up?

January 8, 2015

(Phys.org)—A new high-energy X-ray image from NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has pinpointed the true monster of a galactic mashup. The image shows two colliding galaxies, collectively called Arp ...

Astronomers find unexpected 'storm' at galaxy's core

February 11, 2015

Astronomers using the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array (VLA) found surprisingly energetic activity in what they otherwise considered a "boring" galaxy, and their discovery provides important insight on how supermassive ...

Dark matter guides growth of supermassive black holes

February 18, 2015

Every massive galaxy has a black hole at its center, and the heftier the galaxy, the bigger its black hole. But why are the two related? After all, the black hole is millions of times smaller and less massive than its home ...

Recommended for you

Pluto's 'heart' sheds light on a possible buried ocean

September 23, 2016

Ever since NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto last year, evidence has been mounting that the dwarf planet may have a liquid ocean beneath its icy shell. Now, by modeling the impact dynamics that created a massive ...

Twin jets pinpoint the heart of an active galaxy

September 19, 2016

An international team of astronomers has measured the magnetic field in the vicinity of a supermassive black hole. A bright and compact feature of only 2 light days in size was directly observed by a world-wide ensemble of ...

Nasa scientists find 'impossible' cloud on Titan—again

September 21, 2016

The puzzling appearance of an ice cloud seemingly out of thin air has prompted NASA scientists to suggest that a different process than previously thought—possibly similar to one seen over Earth's poles—could be forming ...

Migrating exoplanets

September 19, 2016

Many known exoplanets orbit close to their host star, within one-tenth of an astronomical unit (one AU is the average distance of the Earth from the Sun). Since their orbital periods are therefore very short and their gravitational ...

20 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

big_hairy_jimbo
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 19, 2015
"In the new study, astronomers determined PDS 456, an extremely bright black hole known as a quasar more than 2 billion light-years away" and "This black hole gives astronomers a unique look into a distant era of our universe, around 10 billion years ago,". Is the discrepancy of distance and time related to Expansion of the Universe or is the article in error or am I misunderstanding something. 2 billion lights yeas away but 10 billion years ago??
movementiseternal
Feb 19, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
movementiseternal
Feb 19, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
movementiseternal
Feb 19, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
bbbbwindows
2.7 / 5 (14) Feb 19, 2015
This is approaching the insane. I thought black holes had gravity so intense not even light could escape. I guess this is the consequence of employing a mathematical model that is not observed or confirmed.
Has anyone even seen Donald Scott's presentation to NASA Goddard's astrophysicists in 2009 regarding the "electric sky"?. Has anyone even heard of Halton Arp's work essentially proving that red shift is a function of age, not distance. Good bye Big Bang. Nobel prize winners Alfvens and Langmuir have shown beyond doubt that Biirkeland's findings were right on the money. Any cosmologist that is not fluent in the terms of plasma physics (i.e. "Z Pinch") has no chance of properly interpreting the newest radio telescope data.
Neutron stars either were born at the time of the big bang or accreted. How did the 1st 2 neutrons accrete??? They didn't.
It pains me to say that even Einstein had great doubts about relativity. "Spooky action at a distance" troubled him to his grave.
bbbbwindows
2.7 / 5 (12) Feb 19, 2015
What this showed was the speed of light was not Vmax. This invalidates the theory of relativity. So 2 generations of astrophysicists and cosmologists have followed a brilliant man down the wrong road. They failed to address his concerns. In 1921 Tesla stated relativity was like a "beggar in a purple robe". Even Einstein was concerned that relativity required the absence of the "ether" proposed by Tesla. He said he "knew it must be there". Today it is known as plasma.
Anthony Peratt's work at Los Alamos in plasma physics will win the Nobel prize, Showing spiral galaxy formation with plasma physics experiments was groundbreaking. That the necessary velocities were present obviated the need for black holes or dark matter. Similar results were obtained to invalidate the concept of neutron stars. All that is needed to interpret the newest radio telescope data is a knowledge of plasma physics.
The electromagnetic forces that formed the universe are now being properly addressed.
Stevepidge
3.7 / 5 (6) Feb 19, 2015
http://vixra.org/...10v1.pdf

Whats THIS ??? Intrinsic Plasma Redshifts Now Reproduced In The
Laboratory... LOL
Nik_2213
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 19, 2015
"This black hole gives astronomers a unique look into a distant era of our universe, around 10 billion years ago, when super-massive black holes and their raging winds were more common and possibly shaped galaxies as we see them today."

Yup, clearly said. Nice to find a modern specimen pulling similar act, as a lot of those ancient quasars have to be disentangled from 'gravity lensing' by nearer galaxies...
bbbbwindows
2 / 5 (8) Feb 19, 2015
"Ancient" quasars are not so ancient. Arp's findings have been validated by the data from Chandra. Red shift is not a function of distance or velocity, but age. This finding invalidates the big bang theory as well as that of universal inflation. Thank goodness, they were both irrational and illogical to begin with.
Okam's razor is brought to bear.
What is more likely? Experimentally confirmed results or imaginary mathematical constructs that can not be confirmed or observed? The end of black holes, dark matter, the big bang and neutron stars will allow cosmology to return to science and leave the realm of religion/science fiction.
bbbbwindows
1.6 / 5 (7) Feb 19, 2015
Stevepidge.......educate yourself and you may cease with the less than alert comments. The Xray data from the Chandra radio telescope has confirmed the observations of Halton Arp. These findings are stated in his book "Seeing Red". Arp was a student of Edmund Hubble and worked at the Max Planck inst. in Germany. Hardly a crackpot. Listen to his presentation of the data (prior to his death) on U Tube. He was a top notch radio astronomer that simply presented his findings with no ulterior motive. His findings will overturn the entire "standard model". He will win the Nobel Prize in astrophysics for his work and his honest discourse on the subject. He was not invested in any particular theory or dogma. Just the scientific truth.
brahmix
1 / 5 (2) Feb 20, 2015
Gas in the form of winds escaping a black hole? Sounds like black holes are much like Phumba' past... in his behind!
PhotonX
4.3 / 5 (11) Feb 20, 2015
This is approaching the insane. I thought black holes had gravity so intense not even light could escape.
*Inside* the event horizon nothing can escape. There is vast activity occurring *outside* the event horizon. Educate yourself and you'd know this.
.
.
movementiseternal
Feb 20, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Johann Fuchs
5 / 5 (9) Feb 20, 2015
Stevepidge.......He will win the Nobel Prize in astrophysics for his work and his honest discourse on the subject. He was not invested in any particular theory or dogma. Just the scientific truth.


There is no Nobel Prize for Astrophysics, just Physics.
Further the Nobel Prize can't be awarded post mortem.

Just because he is an accomplished scientist (Arp), doesn't mean he can't be wrong. Many
great scientists had some very weird and wrong theories which were at their time or later proven to be wrong.

Give me a cookie - i'll do science to it!
alfie_null
4 / 5 (8) Feb 20, 2015
This is approaching the insane.

No thanks to you for helping push matters in that direction.

If you honestly want traction, prove yourself by sustaining your arguments against real scientists. Preaching your beliefs to a bunch of laypersons is disingenuous.

My automatic (and well reasoned) response to commentors that declare that most of the rest of the world is wrong is: ho hum, yet another crank.
reset
1 / 5 (3) Feb 20, 2015
My automatic (and well reasoned) response to commentors that declare that most of the rest of the world is wrong is: ho hum, yet another crank.


He believes in Black Holes...ho hum, yet another crank.
Tuxford
1 / 5 (3) Feb 20, 2015
So ask the uncomfortable question already. Where does the gas blowing outward in all directions come from?? Just further evidence indeed for LaViolette's longstanding model that new matter actually forms within the core of the GREY hole. There is an exit trajectory, but most likely substantially radial.
Tuxford
1 / 5 (3) Feb 21, 2015
-"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," said the study's lead author, Emanuele Nardini of Keele University in England.-

That statement is just another assumption from a merger maniac. Their model is inverted. The gas is sourced from the center, and resupplied at an ever-increasing rate as the core star grows. Eventually it shuts down star formation, but it still blows gas outward, leaving a bare core in the end.

Slam the obvious, but I made this prediction with my first posting on this site. And now we have rather dumbfounding evidence.

http://phys.org/n...ars.html
Protoplasmix
5 / 5 (4) Feb 23, 2015
Is the discrepancy of distance and time related to Expansion of the Universe or is the article in error or am I misunderstanding something. 2 billion lights yeas away but 10 billion years ago??

It's ~2 billion light years away. The '10 billion years ago' is a reference to a time period ('era') in the evolution of the universe when "supermassive black holes and their raging winds were more common and possibly shaped galaxies as we see them today."

It outshines its host galaxy. But astronomers were able to image 3 nearby (likely satellite) galaxies, indicating the likelihood of PDS 456 undergoing "a tidal interaction or a merger recently, possibly triggering the strong AGN activity of PDS 456 we see today." See Frankfurt Quasar Monitoring, PDS 456
Tuxford
1 / 5 (2) Feb 23, 2015
...Even Einstein was concerned that relativity required the absence of the "ether" proposed by Tesla. He said he "knew it must be there". Today it is known as plasma.


Yes, it is there, but is not plasma. Plasma is a component of our observable universe. The ether is composed of at least seven distinct elements, all too small to be detected with any larger instrument of our universe. Under the right conditions, these elements spontaneously transmute into other elements. This process is too small to be observed directly, and can only be inferred from system dynamical models. But the results of ether's presence can be observed, such as matter forming spontaneously both in the depths of supermassive stars and in the voids of intergalactic space. We had already observed the latter, and now we have observed the former.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.