Matter Near Black Hole Gets Second Lease On Life
Chandra observations reveal evidence of high-speed winds blowing gas away from the supermassive black hole that powers the quasar APM 08279+5255. This discovery suggests that such winds may play a key role in regulating the growth of supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies.
The Chandra data imply that the wind is blowing away from the black hole at speeds as high as 40 percent of the speed light, considerably faster than predicted. As gas swirls in a disk toward the black hole, it is heated to millions of degrees Celsius and produces intense X-radiation. The pressure of the X-rays pushes matter away from the inner part of the disk in much the same way as pressure from a garden hose pushes dirt off a driveway. This radiation pressure effect can significantly limit the amount of matter captured by the black hole.
The double image of APM 08279 is caused by the bending of its light by an intervening galaxy, an effect called gravitational lensing. This effect also magnifies the light of the quasar 100 fold allowing for a detailed study of its properties even though it is 12 billion light.