This composite image of a galaxy illustrates how the intense gravity of a supermassive black hole can be tapped to generate immense power. The image contains X-ray data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue), optical light obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope (gold) and radio waves from the NSF's Very Large Array (pink).
Recently, the Fermi team announced that the spacecraft dodged a very large bullet in the form of a defunct Soviet spy satellite: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/GLAST/news/bullet-dodge.html. The close encounter with Cosmos 1805 was reminder that even though space is very large, there are some real threats to our invaluable telescopes that are in orbit.
Scientists have used Chandra to make a detailed study of an enormous cloud of hot gas enveloping two large, colliding galaxies. This unusually large reservoir of gas contains as much mass as 10 billion Suns, spans about 300,000 light years, and radiates at a temperature of more than 7 million degrees.
The Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) is one of the Milky Way's closest galactic neighbors. Even though it is a small, or so-called dwarf galaxy, the SMC is so bright that it is visible to the unaided eye from the Southern Hemisphere and near the equator. Many navigators, including Ferdinand Magellan who lends his name to the SMC, used it to help find their way across the oceans.
An interdisciplinary and international group from Chandra, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and experts in the field of aesthetics from the University of Otago, New Zealand, formed the Aesthetics and Astronomy group - known as the A&A project -- back in 2008 to explore how astronomy images are perceived.
Amanda Berry, an MFA graduate student at Kendall College of Art and Design in Michigan, is researching "space" as a visual knowledge field. She asked some great questions to the Aesthetics & Astronomy project, which Jeffrey Smith kindly answered. We thought you might enjoy the read:
Note: An earlier version of this article appeared on this blog by Peter Edmonds.
The collapse of a massive star in a supernova explosion is an epic event. In less than a second a neutron star (or in some cases a black hole) is formed and the implosion is reversed, releasing prodigious amounts of light that can outshine billions of Suns. That is a spectacular way to be born. Here, I'll explain that the properties of neutron stars are no less spectacular, even though they are not as famous as their collapsed cousins, black holes.
Because of the incredible pressures involved in core collapse, the density of neutron stars is astounding: all of humanity could be squashed down to a sugar cube-sized piece of neutron star. The escape velocity from their surface is over half the speed of light but an approaching rocket ship would be stretched, then crushed and assimilated into the surface of the star in a moment. Resistance would be futile.
Paul Green is an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. His scientific research includes the study of quasars and carbon stars. He pursues these topics while working in Chandra's Director's Office, helping to ensure that the science of the telescope gets done smoothly. When he's not doing all of these things, Paul is also known to play a mean bass guitar.
This is the remnant of Kepler's supernova, the famous explosion that was discovered by Johannes Kepler in 1604. The red, green and blue colors show low, intermediate and high energy X-rays observed with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the star field is from the Digitized Sky Survey.
As reported in our press release, a new study has used Chandra to identify what triggered this explosion. It had already been shown that the type of explosion was a so-called Type Ia supernova, the thermonuclear explosion of a white dwarf star. These supernovas are important cosmic distance markers for tracking the accelerated expansion of the Universe.
We are delighted to welcome Mary Burkey as a guest blogger today. Mary is first author of a paper, describing the trigger mechanism for the Kepler supernova, that is the subject of our latest press release. She grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina and is in her last semester at North Carolina State University. When she graduates in May, she will have Bachelors degrees in Physics, Chemistry, and Applied Mathematics. After commencement, Mary will attend one of the graduate schools she is currently exploring and plans to obtain a PhD in Physics.
When people all over the world looked up into the night sky 409 years ago and saw a new star, they immediately began studying it. However, no one studied this new celestial object more closely than Johannes Kepler. Over several years, he synthesized his observations into a historical book, De Stella Nova, which later justified naming the star “Kepler’s supernova.”
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