Scientists map gusty winds in a far-off neutron star system

Winds from the black hole accretion disk can affect the environment in the vicinity of these objects and neutron stars. This was affirmed by a study – “Vertical Wind Structure in an X-ray Binary Revealed by a Precessing Accretion Disk” – conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and published in Nature Astronomy. According to the authors of the paper, these winds play an important role in the formation of galaxies. To test this theory, astronomers have produced a map of the winds coming from Hercules X-1, an accreting neutron star 21,000 light-years away. The accretion disk of this star is unique in that it oscillates as it spins. This feature has allowed scientists to map the structure of the wind it generates. “In the future, says Peter Kosec of the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research (MIT), we might be able to map the winds coming from a number of different objects and determine how the properties vary with mass. These data will be crucial to understanding how black holes and stars affect the cosmos.”

The researchers combined data sets from two X-ray observatories: Newton from the European Space Agency and Chandra from NASA. Thanks to the two telescopes, the researchers were able to scan the temperature and density of the winds and generated one two-dimensional map containing all His properties. The team will soon make other observations with different instruments to better explain the origin of the wind. In the future, analyzes of Hercules-like systems will be used to gain a broader view of the phenomena that occur around black holes. Top Image: Artist’s impression of Hercules X-1. Credits: Jose-Luis Olivares, Mit – D. Klochkov’s Hercules X-1, European Space Agency


Materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology