(CN) - Space scientists say they have discovered the fastest winds ever recorded near a supermassive black hole.
Researchers at York University in Toronto announced Monday that they have discovered winds traveling at 20 percent of the speed of light, or more than 124 million mph.
"That's equivalent to a category 77 hurricane," researcher Jesse Rogerson said in a statement. "And we have reason to believe that there are quasar winds that are even faster."
Quasars are discs of hot gas that form around large black holes at the center of some galaxies.
Patrick Hall, a York associate professor and Rogerson's supervisor, called black holes "messy eaters" that gobble up surrounding material.
"But as matter spirals toward a black hole, some of it is blown away by the heat and light of the quasar," he said. "These are the winds that we are detecting."
Rogerson and his team examined 100 quasar outflows to try to understand what they are and why they occur, using data from the Gemini Observatory's telescopes in Chile and Hawaii.
"Quasar winds play an important role in galaxy formation," Rogerson said. "When galaxies form, these winds fling material outwards and deter the creation of stars. If such winds didn't exist or were less powerful, we would see far more stars in big galaxies than we actually do."
The Canadian researchers collaborated on the project with scientists in the United States and Turkey.