A Tour of RW Aur A
Since 1937, astronomers have puzzled over the curious variability of a young star named RW Aur A, which is located about 450 light years from Earth. Every few decades, the star's optical light has faded briefly before brightening again. In recent years, astronomers have observed the star dimming more frequently, and for longer periods.
Using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, a team of scientists may have uncovered what caused the star's most recent dimming event: a collision of two infant planetary bodies. Once the planets were destroyed, the debris would have fallen onto the star, generating a thick veil of dust and gas. This would have temporarily obscured the star's light, explaining the dimming astronomers have seen.
Computer simulations have long predicted that planets can fall into a young star, but scientists have never before observed that before now. If this most recent study is correct, it would be the first time that astronomers have directly observed a young star devouring a planet.
Because the X-rays come from the hot outer atmosphere of the star, changes in the X-ray spectrum — the intensity of X-rays measured at different wavelengths — over these three observations were used to probe the density and composition of the absorbing material around the star.
The team found that the dips in both optical and X-ray light are caused by dense gas obscuring the star's light. The observation in 2017 showed strong emission from iron atoms, indicating that the disk contained at least 10 times more iron than in the 2013 observation during a bright period.
The researchers think the excess iron was created when two planetesimals, or infant planetary bodies, collided. If one or both planetary bodies are made partly of iron, their smash-up could release a large amount of iron into the star's disk and temporarily obscure its light as the material falls into the star.
This discovery gives insight into the processes affecting the development of infant planets. Undoubtedly, astronomers will continue to study this fascinating object with Chandra and other telescopes.
A Quick Look at RW Aur A
For decades, astronomers have watched as the star RW Aur A has faded and brightened in optical light.
RW Aur A is a few million years old and relatively close to Earth at a distance of 450 light years.
Recently, they watched as the star dimmed more frequently and for longer periods of time.
To investigate this mystery, a team of scientists used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to study it using a different kind of light: X-rays.
The X-rays provided evidence that the most recent dimming was caused by the destruction of a young planet that was then devoured by a star.
This would be the first time that anyone has seen such an event and would help astronomers better understand how infant planets develop.
A Tour of Alpha Centauri
In humanity's search for life outside our Solar System, one of the best places to look is Alpha Centauri, a system containing the three nearest stars beyond the Sun.
A new study that has involved monitoring of Alpha Centauri for more than a decade by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory provides encouraging news about one key aspect of planetary habitability. It indicates that any planets orbiting the two brightest stars in the Alpha Cen system are likely not being pummeled by large amounts of X-ray radiation from their host stars.
Alpha Centauri is a triple star system located just over four light years, or about 25 trillion miles, from Earth. While this is a large distance in terrestrial terms, it is three times closer than the next nearest Sun-like star.
The stars in the Alpha Centauri system include a pair called "A" and "B," that we'll call AB, which orbit relatively close to each other. Alpha Cen A is a near twin of our Sun in almost every way, including age, while Alpha Cen B is somewhat smaller and dimmer but still quite similar to the Sun. The third member, Alpha Cen C (also known as Proxima), is a much smaller red dwarf star that travels around the AB pair in a much larger orbit that takes it more than 10 thousand times farther from the AB pair than the Earth-Sun distance. Proxima currently holds the title of the nearest star to Earth, although AB is a very close second.
The Chandra data reveal that the prospects for life in terms of current X-ray bombardment are actually better around Alpha Cen A than for the Sun, and Alpha Cen B fares only slightly worse. Proxima, on the other hand, is a type of active red dwarf star known to frequently send out dangerous flares of X-ray radiation, and is likely hostile to life.
A Tour of GW170817
The spectacular merger of two neutron stars that generated gravitational waves announced last fall likely did something else: birthed a black hole. This newly spawned black hole would be the lowest mass black hole ever found.
A new study analyzed data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory taken in the days, weeks, and months after the detection of gravitational waves by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, or LIGO, and gamma rays by NASA's Fermi mission on August 17, 2017.
While nearly every telescope at professional astronomers' disposal observed this source, known officially as GW170817, X-rays from Chandra are critical for understanding what happened after the two neutron stars collided.
From the LIGO data astronomers have a good estimate that the mass of the object resulting from the neutron star merger is about 2.7 times the mass of the Sun. This puts it on a tightrope of identity, implying it is either the most massive neutron star ever found or the lowest mass black hole ever found. The previous record holders for the latter are no less than about four or five times the Sun's mass.
The Chandra observations are telling, not only for what they revealed, but also for what they did not. If the neutron stars merged and formed a heavier neutron star, then astronomers would expect it to spin rapidly and generate a very strong magnetic field. This, in turn, would have created an expanding bubble of high-energy particles that would result in bright X-ray emission. Instead, the Chandra data show levels of X-rays that are a factor of a few to several hundred times lower than expected for a rapidly spinning, merged neutron star and the associated bubble of high-energy particles, implying a black hole likely formed instead.
A Tour of E0102
Neutron stars are the ultra dense cores of massive stars that collapse and undergo a supernova explosion. This neutron star is located within the remains of a supernova — known as 1E 0102.2-7219 (E0102 for short) — in the Small Magellanic Cloud, located 200,000 light years from Earth.
E0102's neutron star is different from most others because it has both a low magnetic field and does not have a star in orbit around it. Its remnant is also unusual because it contains high levels of oxygen like two other well-known supernova remnants, Cassiopeia A and Puppis A. These oxygen-rich supernova remnants are important for understanding how massive stars fuse lighter elements into heavier ones before they explode.
Future observations of E0102 at X-ray, optical, and radio wavelengths should help astronomers understand the origin of this lonely neutron star.
A Quick Look at E0102
A distant and lonely neutron star has been discovered outside the Milky Way galaxy for the first time.
Neutron stars are the ultra-dense cores of massive stars that collapse and undergo a supernova explosion.
1E 0102.2-7219 is a supernova remnant, the stellar debris field left behind after the giant star exploded.
Data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes points to a celestial bull's eye where the neutron star was found.
Unlike many other neutron stars, this one has a very low magnetic field and no stellar companion.
Astronomers will continue to observe this object at X-ray, radio, and visible light wavelengths to learn more about this cosmic oddity.
A Tour of NGC 6231
In some ways, star clusters are like giant families with thousands of stellar siblings. These stars come from the same origins — a common cloud of gas and dust — and are bound to one another by gravity. Astronomers think that our Sun was born in a star cluster about 4.6 billion years ago that quickly dispersed.
By studying young star clusters, astronomers hope to learn more about how stars — including our Sun — are born. NGC 6231, located about 5,200 light years from Earth, is an ideal testbed for studying a stellar cluster at a critical stage of its evolution: not long after star formation has stopped.
The discovery of NGC 6231 is attributed to Giovanni Battista Hodierna, an Italian mathematician and priest who published observations of the cluster in 1654. Sky watchers today can find the star cluster to the southwest of the tail of the constellation Scorpius.
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has been used to identify the young Sun-like stars in NGC 6231, which have, until recently, been hiding in plain sight. Young star clusters like NGC 6231 are found in the band of the Milky Way on the sky. As a result, interloping stars lying in front of or behind NGC 6231 greatly outnumber the stars in the cluster. These stars will generally be much older than those in NGC 6231, so members of the cluster can be identified by selecting signs of stellar youth. The Chandra data, combined with infrared data from the VISTA telescope, have provided the best census of young stars in NGC 6231 available.
By studying this cluster and others like it, astronomers hope to better understand our Sun's origins and our shared cosmic ancestry with stars across the Galaxy.
A Quick Look at NGC 6231
Astronomers think that our Sun was born in a cluster of stars about 4.6 billion years ago that quickly dispersed.
Studying other stellar clusters helps scientists better understand how stars — including our Sun — are born.
NGC 6231 is a relatively nearby cluster in the Milky Way galaxy with thousands of stars.
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has been used to identify the young Sun-like stars in NGC 6231, which have, until recently, been hiding in plain sight.
By combining X-rays from Chandra with infrared data, astronomers have compiled the best census to date of the stars in NGC 6231.
Colorful Gaseous Filaments Surround Dead Star in New Mashed-Up Image
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (reddish background image/supernova remnant 1E 0102.2-7219 in green), the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (red ring with a dark center) and the NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory (blue and purple images) were used to create this a new composite image.
“The blue spot at the centre of the red ring is an isolated neutron star with a weak magnetic field,” according to the European Southern Observatory (ESO). -- Full Story: https://www.space.com/40241-neutron-star-colorful-galaxy-clouds-discovery.html
A Tour of the Cold Front in the Perseus Cluster
Winter often brings many intense and powerful storms, with cold fronts sweeping across many parts of the globe. There are, however, even bigger weather systems. For example, astronomers have discovered cold fronts in space that are millions of light years in extent and older than the Solar System.
For example, researchers used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to study a cold front located in the Perseus galaxy cluster that extends for about two million light years, or about 10 billion billion miles.
Galaxy clusters are the largest and most massive objects in the Universe that are held together by gravity. In between the hundreds or even thousands of galaxies in a cluster, there are vast reservoirs of super-heated gas that glow brightly in X-ray light.
The cold front in the Perseus cluster consists of a relatively dense band of gas with a "cool" temperature of about 30 million degrees moving through lower density hot gas of about 80 million degrees. The enormous cold front formed about 5 billion years ago and has been traveling at speeds of about 300,000 miles per hour ever since.
The cold front has not only survived for over a third of the age of the Universe, but it has also remained surprisingly sharp and split into two different pieces.
Astronomers expected that such an old cold front would have been blurred out or eroded over time because it has traveled for billions of years through a harsh environment of sound waves and turbulence caused by outbursts from the huge black hole at the center of Perseus. Instead, the sharpness of the Perseus cold front suggests that the structure has been preserved by magnetic fields that are wrapped around it.
Perseus is the same cluster where astronomers use Chandra to discover sound waves with a note of B-flat 57 octaves below middle-C plus a giant wave about twice the width of the Milky Way galaxy. Astronomers will continue to use Chandra and other telescopes to study this fascinating galaxy cluster.
A Quick Look at the Cold Front in the Perseus Cluster
Astronomers have used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to study a gigantic and resilient "cold front" in the Perseus galaxy cluster.
This cold front consists of a band of gas with a "cool" temperature of about 30 million degrees moving through lower density, 80-million-degree gas.
Scientists determined this cold front spans about 2 million light years, moves at speeds around 300,000 mph, and formed some 5 billion years ago.
Not only has it survived for so long, the cold front has also remained surprisingly sharp and split into two different pieces.
This suggests that magnetic fields are wrapped around the cold front, which formed before the birth of our Solar System, preserving it.
A Tour of the Galactic Center
A new visualization provides an exceptional virtual trip — complete with a 360-degree view — to the center of our home galaxy, the Milky Way.
A Quick Look at the Galactic Center
The Earth is located about 26,000 light years, or about 200,000 trillion miles, from the center of the Galaxy.
While humans cannot physically travel there, scientists have been able to study this region by using data from powerful telescopes.
A new visualization, based on data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes, lets viewers explore the Milky Way's center.
In this 360-degree movie, viewers can see powerful winds from giant stars around the Galaxy's supermassive black hole.
Scientists are using this visualization to examine the effects from the black hole on its stellar neighbors.
Walking Among the Stars Demo: Supernova Remnant Cassiopeia A in Virtual Reality
A new project using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes allows people to navigate through real data of the remains of an exploded star for the first time.
This three-dimensional virtual reality (VR) project with augmented reality (AR) allows users to explore inside the debris from actual observations of the supernova remnant called Cassiopeia A. Cassiopeia A (Cas A, for short) is the debris field of a massive star that blew itself apart over 340 years ago.
The new 3D VR/AR project of Cas A is a collaboration between the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Mass., and Brown University's Center for Computation and Visualization in Providence, RI, and will provide new opportunities for public communications, informal education, and research.
"The stars are much too far away to touch, but this project will let experts and non-experts — at least virtually — walk among one of the most famous supernova remnants in our sky," said Kimberly Arcand, Visualization Lead at the Chandra X-ray Center.
VR is computer technology that simulates a user's physical presence in a virtual environment. AR adds elements, such as text, overlays and audio, to enhance that experience with sensory input.
Chandra has repeatedly observed Cas A since the telescope was launched into space in 1999. Each exposure has added new and important data to the growing bank of information that astronomers use to study this object. This deep reservoir of data has allowed astronomers and visualization specialists to take the Cas A far beyond the two-dimensional imagery that exists for most astronomical objects.
In 2009, a team of scientists, including astrophysicist Tracy Delaney (then of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and visualization experts used data from Chandra, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, and ground-based optical facilities to generate a three-dimensional (3D) digital model of Cas A, the first ever of a supernova remnant. In 2013, a team of data specialists translated that into the first 3D print of a supernova remnant.
"As technology has advanced in the VR and AR realms in recent years, we realized that we could go further with the 3D Cas A model," said Arcand. "Instead of us telling people where to look in Cas A, this project lets them decide for themselves."
"The visualization of the Cas A supernova remnant took years to put together, and it deserves a magnificent way to experience it," said Tom Sgouros of Brown's Virtual Reality Lab. "Short of creating a building-size replica of the data, we think virtual reality is the best way to do that."
The 3D visualization and VR/AR may also pay scientific dividends as well. It shows that there are two main components to this supernova remnant: a spherical component in the outer parts of the remnant and a flattened (disk-like) component in the inner region. The insight into the structure of Cas A gained from the 3D visualization is important for astronomers who build models of supernova explosions.
The VR project is being made available in an open access format suitable for VR caves or "Yurts," as well as on the Oculus Rift platform. Please contact Kimberly Kowal Arcand (kkowal "at" cfa.harvard.edu) for more information on accessing those files. The project coordinators plan for a Google Cardboard version in future iterations. Additional data-driven 3D astronomical objects are also in the works for the Chandra VR/AR experience.
More information on Cas A in VR is available at http://chandra.si.edu/vr.
For access to non-VR versions, the Smithsonian Learning Lab has created an interactive 3D application for the 3D Cas A with related resources and activities. Visit http://s.si.edu/cas-a
A Tour of the Perseus Cluster
Dark matter is the mysterious and pervasive substance that constitutes most — about 85% — of the matter in our Universe. Although scientists have made progress in better understanding dark matter, the true nature of this invisible material remains elusive.
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory plays an important role in the search to learn about dark matter. One way that astronomers have used Chandra to investigate dark matter has been through the study of a mysterious signal seen in the X-ray data. In 2014, astronomers reported they found a spike of intensity at a very specific energy in Chandra and XMM-Newton observations of the hot gas in the Perseus and other galaxy clusters. This spike, or emission line, is at an energy of 3.5 kiloelectron volts, or keV (pronounced "kay-ee-vee"), and could not easily be explained as emission from known elements. Therefore, one possibility was that this line was produced by dark matter particles.
Naturally, determining the true nature of dark matter would be a huge discovery. And as Carl Sagan famously said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Therefore, astronomers have been working hard both to replicate the initial results and also provide explanations for all of the observations connected to this original finding.
Now a new team of astronomers has provided an innovative interpretation of the observations surrounding this 3.5 keV line. They propose that there is another mechanism at work, namely the absorption of X-ray light by mystery particles. If this is true, then it's possible that the 3.5 keV line may, in fact, be produced by dark matter particles. While these ideas need to be confirmed with future observations, it may be that the prospect of determining the nature of the darkest of matter may never have been more so bright.
A Tour of Cassiopeia A
Where do most of the elements essential for life on Earth come from? The answer: inside the furnaces of stars and the explosions that mark the end of some stars' lives.
Astronomers have long studied exploded stars and their remains — known as "supernova remnants" — to better understand exactly how stars produce and then disseminate many of the elements on Earth and throughout the cosmos.
Cassiopeia A, or Cas A for short, is one of the most intensely studied of these supernova remnants. A new image from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory shows the location of different elements in the remains of the explosion: silicon, sulfur, calcium, and iron. Each of these elements produces X-rays within narrow energy ranges, allowing maps of their location to be created. Astronomers also see the blast wave from the explosion in the form of the blue outer ring.
X-ray telescopes such as Chandra are important to study supernova remnants and the elements they produce because these events generate extremely high temperatures — millions of degrees — that remain even thousands of years after the explosion. This means that many supernova remnants, including Cas A, glow most strongly at X-ray wavelengths that are undetectable with other types of telescopes.
Chandra's sharp X-ray vision helps astronomers not only determine what elements are present in Cas A, but also how much of each there is. For example, Cas A has dispersed about 10,000 Earth masses worth of sulfur alone, and about 20,000 Earth masses of silicon. The iron in Cas A weighs about 70,000 times that of the Earth, and astronomers detect a whopping one million Earth masses worth of oxygen being ejected into space from Cas A, equivalent to about three times the mass of the Sun.
Chandra has repeatedly observed Cas A since the telescope was launched into space in 1999. It will continue to do so, revealing new information about the dense core left behind in the center of Cas A, details of the powerful explosion, and specifics of how the important debris is ejected into space.
A Tour of J0045+41 in M31
The term “photobomb” means for someone or something to unexpectedly appear in an image. While this is generally used for pictures of celebrities or selfies with friends, it turns out that the universe can have photobombs as well.
A new result using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ground-based optical telescopes reveals a photobomb in the nearby Andromeda galaxy. While looking for other types of objects, a team of researchers from the University of Washington noticed one particularly unusual source in this sister spiral galaxy to the Milky Way. While previous scientists had classified this object, known as J0045+41, as a pair of orbiting stars within Andromeda, the researchers decided to take a closer look.
They discovered that J0045+41 was not in Andromeda at all. Instead, J0045+41 was about a thousand times farther away at a distance of some 2.6 billion light years from Earth. They also used the X-ray and optical data to uncover that this was not a pair of stars, but may instead be a duo of supermassive black holes. The researchers estimated that these black holes together contain about 200 million times the mass of the Sun, yet were separated by less than one hundredth of one light year. By comparison, the nearest star to the Sun is over four light years away.
They might take cameras bigger than your smartphone’s and instruments that are in space, but the photobombs from the cosmos can be just as entertaining --and even informative.
A Quick Look at J0045+41 in M31
Astronomers have discovered a cosmic photobomb in the Andromeda galaxy.
Scientists previously thought this source was in Andromeda, but now they know it is not.
This object is actually 1,000 times farther away than Andromeda at a distance of about 2.6 billion light years.
Not only is it much more distant, it may contain two giant black holes in very close orbit around one another.
Scientists used data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and optical telescopes on the ground to identify this unexpected member in Andromeda’s images.
This distant black hole pair could have formed when two galaxies, each containing a supermassive black hole, merged billions of years ago.
How to Hold a Dead Star in Your Hand
Kimberly Arcand, CfA, Visualization Lead for NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory; Tom Sgouros, Manager of the Brown University Virtual Reality Lab
Objects in space are rather far away. The Moon is our closest celestial neighbor at nearly a quarter million miles from Earth, and the nearest star, our Sun, is 93 million miles away. These extreme distances mean that it’s usually impossible to touch real objects in space (meteorites that fall to the ground notwithstanding). But now, thanks to data from some of our favorite observatories, anyone can hold a dead star in their hand. Here’s how. Arcand, of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, will talk about the process of creating the first data-based 3D model and print of an exploded star. At the end of Arcand's talk, she will be joined by Tom Sgouros, a researcher with and on virtual reality at the Brown University Center for Computation and Visualization. Arcand and Sgouros have worked together to develop software, using Occulus Rift technology, allowing observers virtual first-hand experience of a supernova remnant like never before.
Original music by Mark C. Petersen, Loch Ness Productions. Used with permission.
Animations used under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
A Tour of Jupiter's Auroras
On Earth, people at very high latitudes sometimes enjoy the spectacular light shows known as the auroras, also called the northern or southern lights. Our planet is not, however, the only world to experience auroras. For some time, scientists have observed high-energy auroras on Jupiter in the form of ultraviolet and X-ray light. A new study using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA’s XMM-Newton shows that the auroras on Jupiter are significantly different than those on Earth. Scientists have discovered that Jupiter’s auroras behave independently of one another at each pole. This is unlike Earth, where the northern and southern lights tend to mirror one another.
To understand how Jupiter produces its X-ray auroras, researchers plan to combine new and upcoming X-ray data from Chandra and XMM-Newton with information from NASA’s Juno mission, which is currently in orbit around the planet. If scientists can connect the X-ray activity with physical changes observed simultaneously with Juno, they may be able to determine the process that generates the Jovian auroras.
There are many questions this new X-ray study pose: how does Jupiter’s magnetic field give particles the huge energies needed to make X-rays? Do these high-energy particles affect the Jovian weather and the chemical composition of its atmosphere? Can they explain the unusually high temperatures found in certain places in Jupiter’s atmosphere? These are the questions that Chandra, XMM-Newton, and Juno may be able to help answer in the future.
A Quick Look at Jupiter's Auroras
A new study reveals the auroras -- a.k.a. the northern or southern lights – on Jupiter behave mysteriously.
X-ray observations from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA’s XMM-Newton showed something surprising.
Unlike on Earth, the auroras on Jupiter at each pole act independently of one another.
This is causing scientists to revisit their ideas for how Jupiter’s auroras are generated.
In the future, scientists plan to combine data from Chandra, XMM-Newton, and the Juno spacecraft, which is currently orbiting Jupiter.
They hope this reveals the source of this high-energy light show on the fifth planet from our Sun.
THE CHANDRA X-RAY OBSERVATORY - 2008 SPACE DOCUMENTARY
It has been only forty years since humanity has known the existence of the strange and dynamic x-ray universe, an invisible universe of million degree gas, immense jets of radiation, exploding stars and distant quasars. Join Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek's Lt. Uhura, as she guides you on the decades long odyssey to reveal this wondrous universe with NASA's largest X-ray telescope.
A Tour of GJ 176
As astronomers discover more planets outside the Solar System, they are examining what conditions can foster or stifle the habitability of planets. A new study suggests that X-rays emitted by a planet's host star may provide critical clues to just how hospitable a star system could be.
A team of researchers used data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA's XMM-Newton to look at the X-ray brightness of 24 stars with masses similar to the Sun that were at least a billion years old.
Since stellar X-rays mirror magnetic activity, X-ray observations can tell astronomers about the high-energy environment around the star. In the new study the X-ray data from Chandra and XMM-Newton revealed that stars like the Sun and their less massive cousins calm down surprisingly quickly after a turbulent youth.
This is good news for the future habitability of planets orbiting Sun-like stars, because the amount of harmful X-rays and ultraviolet radiation from stellar flares striking planets in orbit around them would be less than scientists used to think.
Astronomers will continue to look at many factors that they think play into the habitability of planets around the thousands of exoplanets that have been discovered. Studies like these show that X-rays can play a critical role in the ultimate question of where life might exist elsewhere in the Universe.
A Quick Look at GJ 176
Scientists are using X-rays to determine the hospitability of stars for life on exoplanets.
Data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA's XMM-Newton were used to study 24 stars like our Sun that were at least one billion years old.
They found these older stars had lower levels of X-rays — and hence magnetic activity — than other types of stars.
This relatively calm is good news for life trying to form on planets around these stars.
Astronomers will continue to look at different properties, including X-rays, to assess the best place to look for life outside our Solar System.
A Quick Look at IC 10
IC 10 is a galaxy about 2.2 million light years from Earth undergoing a period of intense star formation.
Observations with the Chandra X-ray Observatory reveal over 100 sources that glow in X-rays.
Of these, about a dozen are systems where a black hole or neutron star is in orbit with a young, massive companion star.
These systems, called X-ray binaries, are interesting because some of them could become sources of gravitational waves in the future.
Astronomers using Chandra and other telescopes will continue to study X-ray binaries to better understand how they behave.
A Tour of R Aquarii
In biology, “symbiosis” refers to two organisms that live close to and interact with one another. Astronomers have long studied a class of stars — called symbiotic stars — that co-exist in a similar way. Using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes, astronomers are gaining a better understanding of how volatile this close stellar relationship can be.
R Aquarii is one of the best known of the symbiotic stars. Located at a distance of about 710 light years from Earth, its changes in brightness were first noticed with the naked eye almost a thousand years ago. Since then, astronomers have studied this object and determined that R Aqr is not one star, but two: a small, dense white dwarf and a cool red, giant star.
Occasionally, enough material will be pulled from the red giant onto the surface of the white dwarf to trigger thermonuclear fusion of hydrogen. The release of energy from this process can produce a nova, an asymmetric explosion that blows off the outer layers of the star at velocities of ten million miles per hour or more, pumping energy and material into space.
Since shortly after Chandra launched in 1999, astronomers began using the X-ray telescope to monitor the behavior of R Aquarii. Chandra’s data have provided new information about the details and timing of the explosions that occur in R Aquarii. Continued close monitoring of R Aquarii with Chandra and other telescopes in the future should give scientists more insight into this unusual stellar system.
A Quick Look at R Aquarii
R Aquraii is an unusual star system located about 710 light years from Earth.
It contains a white dwarf in orbit with a pulsating red giant star.
Because of differences in temperature and gravitational strength, the white dwarf pulls the outer layers toward it.
Occasionally, enough material accumulates on the white dwarf’s surface to trigger a thermonuclear explosion.
Scientists using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have been studying these explosions.
They are learning just how complex and volatile this stellar relationship can be.
A Wave in the Perseus Cluster 200,000 Light Years Across.
A wave spanning 200,000 light years is rolling through the Perseus galaxy cluster, according to observations from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory coupled with a computer simulation. The simulation shows the gravitational disturbance resulting from the distant flyby of a galaxy cluster about a tenth the mass of the Perseus cluster.
The event causes cooler gas at the heart of the Perseus cluster to form a vast expanding spiral, which ultimately forms giant waves lasting hundreds of millions of years at its periphery. Merger events like this are thought to occur as often as every three to four billion years in clusters like Perseus.
A Quick Look at Supernova 1987A
On February 24, 1987, astronomers in the southern hemisphere saw a supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud.
This new object was dubbed “Supernova 1987A” and was the brightest stellar explosion seen in over four centuries.
Chandra has observed Supernova 1987A many times and the X-ray data reveal important information about this object.
X-rays from Chandra have shown the expanding blast wave from the original explosion slamming into a ring of material expelled by the star before it exploded.
The latest Chandra data reveal the blast wave has moved beyond the ring into a region that astronomers do not know much about.
These observations can help astronomers learn how supernovas impact their environments and affect future generations of stars and planets.
A Black Hole Has Been Found Devouring A Star For 10 Years
Astronomers have observed a large black hole consuming the remains of a destroyed star for an unusually long period of time.
Learn About Galaxies
There are billions of galaxies throughout the Universe and they come in different shapes and sizes.
A Tour of PSR B1259-63/LS 2883
A fast-moving pulsar appears to have punched a hole in a disk of gas around its companion star and launched a fragment of the disk outward at a speed of about 4 million miles per hour.
Geminga - B0355+54
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has taken deep exposures of two nearby energetic pulsars flying through the Milky Way galaxy. The shape of their X-ray emission suggests there is a geometrical explanation for puzzling differences in behavior shown by some pulsars. Pulsars - rapidly rotating, highly magnetized, neutron stars born in supernova explosions triggered by the collapse of massive stars- were discovered 50 years ago via their pulsed, highly regular, radio emission. Pulsars produce a lighthouse-like beam of radiation that astronomers detect as pulses as the pulsar's rotation sweeps the beam across the sky. Since their discovery, thousands of pulsars have been discovered, many of which produce beams of radio waves and gamma rays. Some pulsars show only radio pulses and others show only gamma-ray pulses. Chandra observations have revealed steady X-ray emission from extensive clouds of high-energy particles, called pulsar wind nebulas, associated with both types of pulsars. New Chandra data on pulsar wind nebulas may explain the presence or absence of radio and gamma-ray pulses. The four-panel graphic shows the two pulsars observed by Chandra. Geminga is in the upper left and B0355+54 is in the upper right. In both of these images, Chandra's X-rays, colored blue and purple, are combined with infrared data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope that shows stars in the field of view. Below each data image, an artist's illustration depicts more details of what astronomers think the structure of each pulsar wind nebula looks like. For Geminga, a deep Chandra observation totaling nearly eight days over several years was analyzed to show sweeping, arced trails spanning half a light year and a narrow structure directly behind the pulsar. A five-day Chandra observation of the second pulsar, B0355+54, showed a cap of emission followed by a narrow double trail extending almost five light years. The underlying pulsars are quite similar, both rotating about five times per second and both aged about half a million years. However, Geminga shows gamma-ray pulses with no bright radio emission, while B0355+54 is one of the brightest radio pulsars known yet not seen in gamma rays. A likely interpretation of the Chandra images is that the long narrow trails to the side of Geminga and the double tail of B0355+54 represent narrow jets emanating from the pulsar's spin poles. Both pulsars also contain a torus, a disk-shaped region of emission spreading from the pulsar's spin equator. These donut-shaped structures and jets are crushed and swept back as the pulsars fly through the Galaxy at supersonic speeds. In the case of Geminga, the view of the torus is close to edge-on, while the jets point out to the sides. B0355+54 has a similar structure, but with the torus viewed nearly face-on and the jets pointing nearly directly towards and away from Earth. In B0355+54, the swept-back jets appear to lie almost on top of each other, giving a doubled tail. Both pulsars have magnetic poles quite close to their spin poles, as is the case for the Earth's magnetic field. These magnetic poles are the site of pulsar radio emission so astronomers expect the radio beams to point in a similar direction as the jets. By contrast the gamma-ray emission is mainly produced along the spin equator and so aligns with the torus. For Geminga, astronomers view the bright gamma-ray pulses along the edge of the torus, but the radio beams near the jets point off to the sides and remain unseen. For B0355+54, a jet points almost along our line of sight towards the pulsar. This means astronomers see the bright radio pulses, while the torus and its associated gamma-ray emission are directed in a perpendicular direction to our line of sight, missing the Earth. These two deep Chandra images have, therefore, exposed the spin orientation of these pulsars, helping to explain the presence, and absence, of the radio and gamma-ray pulses.
Chandra X-ray Observatory - Episode 1
Beyond the Light: Seeing is believing and what we observe stargazing or looking at photographs convinces us it's real. But there's more to the universe than meets the eye. Beyond what the eyes can see exists a hidden universe. An INVISIBLE Universe...
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Chandra's Long X-ray View of the Southern Sky | Video
More space news and info at: http://www.coconutsciencelab.com - what happens when astronomers use Chandra to take a long look at the same patch of sky?
That's the question the project known as the Chandra Deep Field-South is designed to answer. Since Chandra was launched in 1999, the telescope has repeatedly observed the same region. Today, the observing time spent looking at this region totals over 7 million seconds. That's more than 81 days!
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NASA Chandra Telescope: Deep Field South - A Treasure Trove Of Black Holes
An unparalleled image from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory gives astronomers the best look yet at the growth of black holes over billions of years beginning soon after the Big Bang. This is the deepest X-ray image ever obtained, collected with about 7 million seconds, or eleven and a half weeks, of Chandra observing time.
The image comes from what is known as the Chandra Deep Field-South. The central region of the image contains the highest concentration of supermassive black holes ever seen, equivalent to about 5,000 objects that would fit into the area of the full Moon and about a billion over the entire sky.
"With this one amazing picture, we can explore the earliest days of black holes in the Universe and see how they change over billions of years," said Niel Brandt of Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pennsylvania, who led a team of astronomers studying the deep image.
Read More: http://chandra.si.edu/press/17_releases/press_010517cdfs.html
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Tour of Chandra Deep Field South
What happens when astronomers use Chandra to take a long look at the same patch of sky? That's the question the project known as the Chandra Deep Field-South is designed to answer. Since Chandra was launched in 1999, the telescope has repeatedly observed the same region. Today, the observing time spent looking at this region totals over 7 million seconds. That's more than 81 days!
There are many things that astronomers can learn by using Chandra to make this ultra-deep X-ray image. Perhaps first among them is what is happening with black holes in the early Universe. For example, the latest Deep Field image lets astronomers explore ideas about how supermassive black holes grew about one to two billion years after the Big Bang. Using these data, researchers showed that these black holes in the early Universe grow mostly in bursts, rather than via the slow accumulation of matter.
The researchers also detected X-rays from massive galaxies at distances up to about 12.5 billion light years from Earth. Most of the X-ray emission from the most distant galaxies likely comes from large collections of stellar-mass black holes within the galaxies. These black holes are formed from the collapse of massive stars and typically weigh a few to a few dozen times the mass of the Sun.
By combining the Chandra Deep Field with observations from other telescopes including Hubble, scientists can continue to probe some of the most important questions in astrophysics.
Chandra Deep Field South
What happens when astronomers use Chandra to take a long look at the same patch of sky? That's the question the project known as the Chandra Deep Field-South is designed to answer. Since Chandra was launched in 1999, the telescope has repeatedly observed the same region. Today, the observing time spent looking at this region totals over 7 million seconds. That's more than 81 days! There are many things that astronomers can learn by using Chandra to make this ultra-deep X-ray image. Perhaps first among them is what is happening with black holes in the early Universe. For example, the latest Deep Field image lets astronomers explore ideas about how supermassive black holes grew about one to two billion years after the Big Bang. Using these data, researchers showed that these black holes in the early Universe grow mostly in bursts, rather than via the slow accumulation of matter. The researchers also detected X-rays from massive galaxies at distances up to about 12.5 billion light years from Earth. Most of the X-ray emission from the most distant galaxies likely comes from large collections of stellar-mass black holes within the galaxies. These black holes are formed from the collapse of massive stars and typically weigh a few to a few dozen times the mass of the Sun. By combining the Chandra Deep Field with observations from other telescopes including Hubble, scientists can continue to probe some of the most important questions in astrophysics.
A Tour of SPT 0346-52
Astronomers have used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes to show that a very distant galaxy is undergoing an extraordinary boom of stellar construction. The galaxy is 12.7 billion light years from Earth, which means it is at a critical stage in the evolution of galaxies about a billion years after the Big Bang.
After astronomers discovered the galaxy, known as SPT 0346-52, with the South Pole Telescope, they observed it with several space and other ground-based telescopes. Data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array revealed this galaxy was giving off tremendous amounts of infrared light.
This excess infrared light could be explaining by a huge burst of star formation. However, there was another possibility: What if the infrared emission was instead caused by a rapidly growing supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center? Gas falling towards the black hole would become much hotter and brighter, causing surrounding dust and gas to glow in infrared light.
To explore this possibility, researchers used Chandra and the Australia Telescope Compact Array, a radio telescope. If there was a massive, growing black hole in the middle of SPT0346-52, it should give off enough X-rays and radio waves for these telescopes to detect.
The result was that neither Chandra nor the Australia Telescope Compact Array saw emission coming from SPT0346-52. The absence of X-rays and radio waves let astronomers rule out a growing black hole being responsible for most of the bright infrared light.
Instead of this galaxy containing a gorging black hole, astronomers know it is shining brightly with the light from newborn stars. This gives scientists information about how galaxies and the stars within them evolve during some of the earliest times in the Universe.
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A Tour of Chandra's Data Archives
Each year, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory helps celebrate American Archive Month by releasing a collection of images using X-ray data that have been stored in its archive.
The Chandra Data Archive is a sophisticated digital system that ultimately contains all of the data obtained by the telescope since its launch into space in 1999. Chandra's archive is a resource that makes these data available to the scientific community and the general public for years after they were originally obtained.
Each of these six new images also includes data from telescopes covering other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as visible and infrared light. This collection of images represents just a small fraction of the treasures that reside in Chandra's unique X-ray archive.
More information at http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2016/archives/
Space Scoop: Is the Sun Really a Giant Pokemon?
Over the last few weeks Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm. Visit the beach and you'll see dozens of people battling to catch water-type Pokémon like Magikarp or Krabby. Take a walk in the countryside and you'll find yourself surrounded by grass-type Caterpies.
But what type of Pokémon would you find in space?
While the Sun is obviously not a Pokémon, it actually has a lot in common with an electric-type Pokémon called Magneton. 'Discharge' and 'Zap Cannon' are two of Magneton's most powerful attacks.
Similarly, the Sun can create powerful storms capable of knocking out communication satellites and damaging electrical power systems on Earth!
These storms are caused by 'magnetic fields' on the Sun. A magnet (like those you can stick to your refrigerator) creates an invisible force field all around it, called a magnetic field. The Sun acts like a magnet. But how the Sun, and stars like the Sun, create their magnetic fields is a bit of a puzzle.
The inside of a star is made of layers. There's a zone where the star's energy moves outwards, and another where the energy circles up and down. Many scientists believe that stars' magnetic fields are produced in the area where these two layers meet.
However, stars much less massive than the Sun don't have both these layers, as you can see in the picture above. Yet a new study has just found that they still have magnetic fields similar to stars like the Sun!
It looks like our theory of magnetic fields needs to be re-examined!
More information at http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2016/gj3253/kids.html
A Tour of XJ1417+52
Black holes come in different sizes. The largest, or supermassive, black holes can contain hundreds of thousands times the mass of the Sun up to billions of times its mass and typically reside in the centers of galaxies. Sometimes, however, astronomers find black holes in somewhat unusual places.
Take, for example, the object known as XJ1417+52. First discovered in observations from Chandra and XMM-Newton over a decade ago, this object has some interesting properties. To begin with, astronomers think this object may fall right at the boundary between supermassive black holes and the intermediate-mass category. As their name suggest, the latter class are black holes of medium size in between stellar mass black holes and supermassive ones. X-rays from both Chandra and XMM-Newton show that XJ1417+52 gave off an extraordinary amount of X-rays. This and other pieces of evidence suggest that XJ1417+52 contains about 100,000 times the mass of the Sun.
What makes this object even more interesting is its location. Rather than being in the center of its host galaxy, it is located on its northern edge. Astronomers think this could have happened when a smaller galaxy with XJ1417+52 at its center collided with a larger galaxy. Since these two galaxies are still in the process of merging, the two black holes have yet to coalesce into one bigger black hole, but may do so millions or billions of years from now.
More information at http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2016/xj1417/
CHANDRA 15 YEARS AND COUNTING - SPACE DOCUMENTARY
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is a telescope specially designed to detect X-ray emission from very hot regions of the Universe such as exploded stars, clusters of galaxies, and matter around black holes.
NASA Mission Update: CHANDRA
Dark matter, black holes, supernovas, mysterious galactic phenomenon that hold the secrets to the origin, evolution, and destiny of the universe. Today those secrets are unraveling faster than ever, due in large part to discoveries made by NASA's Chandra-X-ray Observatory, a powerful telescope system designed to view and record X-rays from high-energy regions of the universe.
chandra telescope project
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Chandra X ray Observatory: Looking back on over 15 Years of Astronomy | NASA / HUBBLE
Over fifteen years ago, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory was launched into space aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia. Since its deployment on July 23, 1999, Chandra has helped revolutionize our understanding of the universe through its unrivaled X-ray vision.
Chandra, one of NASA's current "Great Observatories," along with the Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope, is specially designed to detect X-ray emission from hot and energetic regions of the universe. For more information about Chandra visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cha... Join me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/spaceisamazing
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NASA Chandra Telescope: A Tour Of The Tarantula Nebula
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30 Doradus is a place where stars are born literally. This region, which is also known as the Tarantula Nebula, is located about 160,000 light years from Earth. Within 30 Doradus, giant stars are producing intense radiation and powerful winds that are blowing off material from their surfaces. These stellar winds and blasts from supernova explosions have heated some of the gas to millions of degrees. The Chandra X-ray Observatory can detect this gas in the form of X-ray light. This hot gas carves out gigantic bubbles in the surrounding cooler gas and dust that can be seen by the Spitzer Space Telescope as infrared emission. When combined, the data from these two telescopes reveal an amazing view of this region that is found in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small neighbor galaxy to our Milky Way.
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Satellite Death Rattle
The satellite launched in February, but in March, it malfunctioned, spun out of control, and broke into pieces. The mission was declared a failure. But! Before it failed, Hitomi managed a couple days’ worth of observations.
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Chandra X-ray Telescope
Chandra X-ray Observatory, is in orbit since 1999, studies the high-energy Universe, where black holes, exploding stars, and mysterious matter hold sway.
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Talking Through Deep Space
NASA doesn't just send it's spacecraft out to explore and say "good luck." Mission teams are constantly talking to their proxy explorers thanks to good ol' radio communications!
For more on the Deep Space Network on its 50th anniversary, check out this piece from Sky and Telescope: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/deep-space-networks-50th-anniversary/
Title image via NASA. Music "The Coup" by AudioQuattro from Music Loops.
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