On September 14, 2013, astronomers caught the largest X-ray flare ever detected from the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, known as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*). This event, which was captured by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, was 400 times brighter than the usual X-ray output from Sgr A*, as described in our press release. The main portion of this graphic shows the area around Sgr A* in a Chandra image where low, medium, and high-energy X-rays are red, green, and blue respectively. The inset box contains an X-ray movie of the region close to Sgr A* and shows the giant flare, along with much steadier X-ray emission from a nearby magnetar, to the lower left. A magnetar is a neutron star with a strong magnetic field. A little more than a year later, astronomers saw another flare from Sgr A* that was 200 times brighter than its normal state in October 2014.
A newly discovered galaxy cluster is the most massive one ever detected with an age of 800 million years or younger. Using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have accurately determined the mass and other properties of this cluster, as described in our latest press release. This is an important step in understanding how galaxy clusters, the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity, have evolved over time.
At this time of year, there are lots of gatherings often decorated with festive lights. When galaxies get together, there is the chance of a spectacular light show as is the case with NGC 2207 and IC 2163
Located about 130 million light years from Earth, in the constellation of Canis Major, this pair of spiral galaxies has been caught in a grazing encounter. NGC 2207 and IC 2163 have hosted three supernova explosions in the past 15 years and have produced one of the most bountiful collections of super bright X-ray lights known. These special objects - known as "ultraluminous X-ray sources" (ULXs) - have been found using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.
For many, it might be hard to imagine living a life without computers and technology. In fact, it’s become so much a part of our society that we may not realize how dependent we are on technology.
But who does the work that enables these computers to fit into our daily lives? Who gets to learn how to code? A project called “Hour of Code” as well as Computer Science Education Week is seeking to address that question by increasing access to coding opportunities for elementary, middle and high school students, and particularly girls and underrepresented students of color.
Here at the Chandra X-ray Center we strongly believe in this goal as well. We’ve joined forces with other members of the astronomical community, including an astronomer at the American Astronomical Society, others at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, as well as partners at Google's CS First and Pencil Code, to create a project for the “Hour of Code” that combines color, astronomy, and coding: http://event.pencilcode.net/home/hoc2014/
The people who work at the Chandra X-ray Center truly have many talents. Take, for example, Sherry Winkelman who works on the Chandra Data Archive, which houses the vast amounts of Chandra observations taken over the lifetime of the mission.
Just recently, Sherry’s quilt called "Interchange," an abstraction of the Chandra archive, was accepted for the 2015 Smithsonian Community Committee art exhibition, Artists at Work show. The quilt will be on exhibit in the Ripley Center in Washington, D.C. from February 4 through May 1, 2015.
Last week, Tech Collective, Rhode Island’s industry association for Information Technology and Bioscience, announced ten Rhode Island IT practitioners, digital media designers, and entrepreneurs as its 2014 Tech10 Award recipients. Our own Kimberly Arcand, a Rhode Island native, was recognized for work as the Visualization Lead for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. Kim shared her thoughts on some important topics in science communication, which we include below.
The “STEM” fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics seem inextricably linked, particularly in the field of space science. We can work from wherever there’s a connected computer – being able to access data from a spacecraft, orbiting a third of the way to the Moon, because of the telecommunications system/network and software that connects the observatory to the Deep Space Network and down through to – eventually - my laptop. My particular piece in this is directing the translation of the data and information into forms that others can use. That process happens in many ways, whether through the more literal form of processing binary data into visual representations of a cosmic object, or tweeting about a recent science result.
A supernova that signals the death of a massive star sends titanic shock waves rumbling through interstellar space. An ultra-dense neutron star is usually left behind, which is far from dead, as it spews out a blizzard of high-energy particles. Two new images from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory provide fascinating views - including an enigmatic lobster-like feature - of the complex aftermath of a supernova.
PART 2: #sts93 (PART 1)
Preparation for Launch
The size and weight distribution of the Chandra X-ray Observatory and its booster (called the Inertial Upper Stage, or IUS) posed extra risks for the crew of STS-93. Space Shuttle Columbia was the heaviest shuttle and the bulk of the weight from the two components in the payload bay – the heaviest ever to fly -- was located in the aft of the Shuttle. This meant it could be extremely dangerous – or fatal -- if for some reason, they had to return to Earth with Chandra and IUS in the payload bay.
PART 1: #womeninstem
Shortly after midnight on July 23, 1999, the Space Shuttle Columbia blasted off from the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission – dubbed STS-93 in NASA shorthand – had several purposes to achieve and scientific experiments to perform.
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