Milky Way: 'Twin' Galaxy Has Ultra-Fast X-Ray Wind

First Posted: Jan 14, 2016 11:43 AM EST

Researchers have discovered a gush high-speed gas spilling out from the center of a bright spiral galaxy that is similar to the Milky Way. This activity is likely reducing the galaxy's ability to produce new stars. The observations were made using the ESA's XMM-Newton observatory, according to the study.

It is quite unusual for hot winds to be pouring out from swirling discs of material around supermassive black holes that are in center of active galaxies. If these winds are powerful enough, they can move massive amounts of gas that have formed stars and can also degrade clouds to form stars. The researchers believe that these processes may have played an essential role in many galaxies and black holes during the universe's 13.8 billion years.

These winds are often found in a normal type of active galaxy called a Seyfert, which has not experienced any type of merging. Seyfert galaxies are spiral in shape and they quite similar to the Milky Way. However, Seyferts have distinctive bright cores that shine across the electromagnetic spectrum, which indicates that have supermassive black holes in their centers that devour their surroundings.

The researchers found a supermassive black hole in Seyfert's center, which was identified as IRAS17020+4544. This black hole is 800 million light-years away from the Earth and it has a mass of nearly 6 million suns. The winds around the black hole are moving at 23,000 to 33,000 km/s, about 10 percent the speed of light.

"It's the first solid case of an ultra-fast X-ray outflow observed in a 'normal' Seyfert galaxy," Anna Lia Longinotti, lead author of the study, said in a news release. "I was actually very surprised to discover that this wind is made mostly of oxygen because nobody has seen a galaxy like this before."

The findings of this study were published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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