NASA Discovers New Winds Around Supermassive Black Hole

Escaping a Supermassive Black Hole?

NASA says it COULD be possible

Messier 106 - A Seyfert Galaxy

Messier 106 – A Seyfert Galaxy

This summer I plan on taking a trip – a REALLY long trip to NGC 5548, and hey why not, its only 245 Million light years away.

Okay, so I might not be really going that far on my summer vacation – because well, I need to be back by August to start the eighth grade.  But I can go there in my imagination and if I travel to the center of the galaxy where there is a supermassive black hole – I might JUST be able to escape – so sayeth NASA.

NGC 5548 is a Seyfert Galaxy that has been actively studied for the past 60 years.  The galaxy has an active galactic nucleus, which means the center of the galaxy is much brighter than normal.  This is believed to be a result of the accretion of matter onto a supermassive black hole.

If you don’t know, accretion is the growth of a massive object (like a black hole) by gravitationally attracting more matter.  Yes- I had to look it up.  But in simple words its the basis of what we have been told about Black holes – that it grows by sucking in everything around it in which nothing can escape.  Or can it?

Seyfert's Sextet - 190 million light years away

Seyfert’s Sextet – 190 million light years away

Supermassive black holes are surrounded by persistent winds made of expelled matter from the black hole. The persistent wind around NGC 5548 can be faster than 621 miles per second (that’s 37,260 miles per minute or 2,235,600 miles per hour for those of you who didn’t want to do the math!). So one could reason that if you were hurtling through space towards a black hole you could get pushed into a different direction by one of these super fast winds.

But wait – if that doesn’t work, and you still find yourself being sucked in by the gravitational force there is a second chance!  Closer to the nucleus, NASA has found a new wind that reach speeds up to 3,107 miles per second (you can do your own math) and blocks 90 percent of the low energy X-rays that come from very close to the black hole (we are talking about a few light days not years) from the black hole.  Researchers deduce that such a wind could blow off gas that would have otherwise become food for the black hole.

NG 1566 a Spiral Seyfert Galaxy

NG 1566 a Spiral Seyfert Galaxy

So that means (in terms of what I am sure will be an upcoming sci-fi movie or maybe a Dr. Who episode!) that when you miss your first chance to be pushed off course from the supermassive black hole you are being drawn into, that you can hitch your sails to this newly discovered wind and travel to safety before you find out whats on the other side of the supermassive black hole.

So that’s how I plan to spend my summer, and some handy dandy tips for you the reader when you find yourself being sucked in by a black hole – you have TWO chances to escape!

BTW I found out this news from NASA here: Swiftly Moving Gas Streamer Eclipses Supermassive Black Hole


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Photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Photo credit: Hubble Heritage / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Photo credit: Missional Volunteer / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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