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Found: Supermassive Black Holes’ Superfast Space Winds

The equivalent of a Category 77 hurricane.

An artists’ illustration of a quasar. (Photo: NASA, and M. Weiss/Chandra X -ray Center)

In the middle of almost every galaxy in the universe, there’s a supermassive black hole. Around supermassive black holes, there are quasars—expansive discs of hot gas that are the brightest objects in the universe. In one of those quasars, a team of scientists have found the “fastest winds ever seen at ultraviolet wavelengths,” they report in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

As Bec Crew explains at Science Alert, space winds aren’t the same as earth winds: space winds are currents of energy, rather than movements of air particles. They are also much more powerful. Here are three ways, from the lead author of the new paper, to think about how incredibly fast these ultraviolet quasar winds are:

1. They are 20 percent the speed of light.

2. They move at more than 124 million miles per hour…

3. Or are the equivalent of a Category 77 hurricane.

So, in short, they are really, really fast. Quasar winds are so strong that they can blow matter away from a black hole and even keep stars from forming. The goal of these scientists is to better understand how quasars behave, so that we can better understand the fundamentals of how everything that surrounds us was formed. 

Bonus finds: Record-breaking python

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