Tag Archives: Chandra

Preserving the X-ray Universe for future generations

A collage of the eight images NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has released from its archive

October is designated as American Archive Month, to promote an awareness of the importance of historical records. While many think ‘archive’ may only apply to books and letters, there are other important archives. Archives are used for major telescopes and observatories, including NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

The primary role of the Chandra Data Archive (CDA) is to store and distribute data so the astronomical community, as well as the general public, have access to it. The CDA does this with the aid of powerful search engines. This archive collection will preserve the legacy of the Chandra mission for generations.

In celebration of American Archive Month, the Chandra team chose images from a group of eight objects in the CDA to be released to the public for the first time. These are but a few of the thousands of objects that Chandra’s archive has made permanently available to the public. 


Chandra’s observation of this supernova remnant, located around 2,400 light years away in the constellation Vela, revealed extremely high-energy particles. These particles are produced as the shock wave from the explosion expands into interstellar space. The X-rays from Chandra (purple) have been combined with optical data from the Digitized Sky Survey (red, green, and blue).


This is a wide and double-lobed jet, generated by a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy about 410 million light years away, in the constellation Ophiuchus. The jet itself is the tiny point in the centre while the giant plumes of radiation can be seen in X-rays from Chandra (purple) and radio data from the Very Large Array (orange).

NGC 3576

This nebula is located around 9,000 light years away from Earth, in the Sagittarius arm of the Milky Way galaxy. The scattered X-ray data detected by Chandra (blue) are probably due to the winds from young, massive stars blowing throughout the nebula. Optical data from ESO are shown in orange and yellow.

NGC 4945

This galaxy is similar in appearance to our own, but contains a much more active supermassive black hole within the white area near the top. NGC 4945 is only about 13 million light years from Earth, in the constellation Centaurus, and is seen edge-on. X-rays from Chandra (blue), have been overlaid on an optical image from the European Space Observatory to reveal the presence of the supermassive black hole at the centre of this galaxy.

IC 1396A

The nebula otherwise known as the Elephant Trunk Nebula is located about 2,800 light years away in the constellation of Cepheus. Radiation and winds from massive young stars seem to be triggering new generations of stars to form. X-rays from Chandra (purple) have been combined with optical (red, green, and blue) and infrared (orange and cyan) to give a more complete picture of this source.

3C 397 (G41.1-0.3)

Also known as G41.1-0.3, this is a Galactic supernova remnant with an unusual shape found around 33,000 light years away in the constellation Aquila. Its box-like shape is possibly produced as the heated remains of the exploded star interacts with the cooler gas enveloping it. The exploded star was detected by Chandra in X-rays (purple) and this composite of the area around 3C 397 also contains infrared emission from Spitzer (yellow) and optical data from the Digitized Sky Survey (red, green, and blue).

SNR B0049-73.6

This supernova is located approximately about 180,000 light years away in the constellation Tucana, within our neighbouring galaxy of the Small Magellanic Cloud. Observations of the dynamics as well as the composition of the debris from the explosion provide evidence that the explosion was produced by the collapse of the central core of a star. In this image, X-rays from Chandra (purple) are combined with infrared data from the 2MASS survey (red, green, and blue).

NGC 6946

Nicknamed the ‘Fireworks Galaxy’, this medium-sized, face-on spiral galaxy is found about 22 million light years away from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. Eight supernovae have been observed to explode in the arms of this galaxy in the last 100 years. Chandra observations (purple) have revealed three of the oldest supernovas ever detected in X-rays. This composite image also includes optical data from the Gemini Observatory in red, yellow, and cyan.

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/preserving-x-ray-universe-future-generations

This Image Shows The Most Terrifying Explosion In The Universe

The most powerful black hole ever discovered resides in the galaxy cluster MS 0735.6+7421, 2.6 billion light-years away in the constellation of the Giraffe (Camelopardalis).

It has a mass estimated around 10 billion solar masses, and every second produces the same amount of energy emitted by the Sun every 200,000 years. In its 100 million years of activity, it has emitted1055 Joules of energy, consuming a mass equivalent to 600 million solar masses.

Although discovered in 2005, astronomersare still unsure where all this material came from. Large black holes are expected to have grown very little in the recent past, so scientists are definitely intrigued by this object. A leading theory suggests that the gas in the galaxy suddenly and catastrophically cooled and was swallowed by the black hole. This black hole is feasting when it should be fasting as it was once described.

The monstrous black hole has a dramatic effect on the entire cluster. Materialsbetween the galaxies in the cluster are heated up to 100 million degrees Kelvin and two large cavities, 600,000 light-years across, have been produced by the powerful jets of the black hole.

The jets are made by highly energetic electrons which emitradio waves (the pinkish light in the image above). These electrons move through the hot intergalactic gas at supersonic speed up to a million light-years from their source, forming the seen gaps.

Astronomers were able to estimate the energy of the black holes (among other properties), just by looking at the size of the cavities. The X-ray telescopeChandra, which was used to discover the object, has seen other cavities like these but never of such enormous size.

Thisimage of MS 0735.6+7421 is one of a collection of six images releasedfrom the Chandra Data Archive in early October, which has been collecting datafor16 years, operating asNASA’sX-ray observatory.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/most-terrifying-explosion-universe

NASA Release Six Incredible Images From Their Chandra Archives

In celebration of American Archive Month, NASA has released six mind-blowing images from the Chandra archive.

The Chandra X-ray Observatory was launched and deployed from Space ShuttleColumbiaon July 23, 1999.Since then, it has collected data on thousands of cosmic objects such aspulsars, supernovae, interstellar gas clouds, and galaxies. NASA hopes that by releasing these images to the public and scientific community, it will inspire new perspectives and serve as inspiration for future exploration.

The imagescantakehours, and in some instancesdays,to capture. They are imaged usinga combination of light waves, X-rays, and radio waves.

BelowisW44, also known asG34.7-0.4, which is an expanding supernova remnant that is interacting with the dense cosmic material surrounding it.

Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Georgia/R.Shelton & NASA/CXC/GSFC/R.Petre; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NextisSN 1987A, the brightest and nearest supernovato Earth in thelast century. This image shows the result of thesupernova explosion, which occurs when a starruns out of fuel and then hurls layers of itself outinto space.

Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/PUS/E.Helder et al; Optical: NASA/STScI

Below isKesteven 79, anotherremnant of a supernova explosion. This one, however,occurred thousands of years ago.

Image credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/F.Seward et al, Optical: DSS

NextisMS 0735.6+7421, a galaxy cluster whereone of the most powerful eruptions ever observed by humanity was seen.

Image credit: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Waterloo/A.Vantyghem et al; Optical: NASA/STScI; Radio: NRAO/VLA

Here, we see the galaxy cluster3C295. The pink area is superheated gas and the yellow regions areindividual galaxies.Galaxy clusters like this contain huge amounts of dark matter, which hold thehot gas (pink) and galaxies (yellow) together.

Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Cambridge/S.Allen et al; Optical: NASA/STScI

Last but not leastis the “Guitar Nebula,” containing a pulsar officially calledB2224+65. This pulsar is traveling at an extremely high speed of approximately 800kilometers (500 miles) per second.

Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/UMass/S.Johnson et al, Optical: NASA/STScI & Palomar Observatory 5-m Hale Telescope

Check outNASAs websitefor more details on each image.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/nasa-release-six-incredible-images-their-chandra-archives

An X-Ray Outburst By Our Own Black Hole Shatters Existing Records

After years of watching the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, researchers were rewarded with a megaflare of X-rays, the largest one ever recorded. 

The black hole in the middle of our galaxy is called Sagittarius A*, and astronomers believe that it contains about 4.5 million times the mass of the sun. A team led by Daryl Haggard of Amherst College has been observing Sgr A* with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory since 1999, waiting to see if the black hole would eat up material from a nearby gas cloud called G2 during the spring of last year when it made its closest approach. “Unfortunately, the G2 gas cloud didn’t produce the fireworks we were hoping for when it got close to Sgr A*,” Haggard says in a university statement

She adds: “However, nature often surprises us and we saw something else that was really exciting.” Last September, the team detected an X-ray outburst that was 400 times brighter than the typical outputs from Sgr A* and nearly three times brighter than the previous record holder (which was observed in 2012). Then in October, they observed a second giant X-ray flare that was 200 times brighter than Sgr A* in its quiet state. 

The team has two main hypotheses on how the supermassive black hole erupted in this extremely bright way: Perhaps its gravity tore apart a couple of asteroids that wandered too close, or the black hole experienced a massive sun-like magnetic flare. 

“If an asteroid were torn apart, it would go around the black hole for a couple of hours—like water circling an open drain—before falling in,” MIT’s Fred Baganoff explains. “That’s just how long we saw the brightest X-ray flare last, so that is an intriguing clue for us to consider.” Debris from this sort of event, called a tidal disruption, would become very hot and produce X-rays before disappearing forever. And if that’s the case, then that asteroid was probably the largest-ever asteroid torn apart by Sgr A*. 

On the other hand, it could be the tightly packed and tangled magnetic field lines within the gas flowing towards the black hole. When field lines interconnect and reconfigure themselves, their magnetic energy gets converted into kinetic energy, heat, and particle acceleration. Together, these could produce an X-ray flare like the ones seen on the sun. 

But right now the researchers aren’t able to distinguish between the two ideas. Regardless, “such rare and extreme events give us a unique chance to use a mere trickle of infalling matter to understand the physics of one of the most bizarre objects in our galaxy,” Gabriele Ponti of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics adds in a NASA release.

The findings were announced at a press conference during the American Astronomical Society’s meeting in Seattle this week. 

Images: NASA/CXC/Northwestern Univ/D.Haggard et al. (top), Daryl Haggard via Amherst (middle)

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/x-ray-outburst-our-own-black-hole-shatters-existing-records