MIT scientists have observed powerful stellar winds generated by an accretion disk in the Hercules X-1 binary X-ray system. search results published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
A unique feature of Hercules X-1, which hosts a neutron star and a sun-like star, is that its accretion disk precedes as it rotates every 35 days. By observing these distortions with the XMM Newton and Chandra X-ray telescopes, the scientists were able to create a two-dimensional map of the stellar winds generated by the disk.
The map showed the structure of disk winds, as well as their speed, which reaches around hundreds of kilometers per second. However, it is still unclear how the winds are generated by such systems. It is speculated that the magnetic fields can tear the discs apart, blowing some of the material away as wind. According to another hypothesis, the neutron radiation from the hole heats and evaporates the surface of the disc.
Disk winds help scientists understand how supermassive black holes affect the structure of galaxies. Astronomers have observed signs of disk winds in many systems, including accreting black holes and neutron stars, but in most cases the disks are flat and the effects of the winds are only noticeable in a narrow region of space.
The team plans to compare their observations with theoretical simulations of various wind formation mechanisms to see which hypothesis best explains its origin.