A little bit after midnight (12:31 am EDT to be exact) on July 23, 1999, the Space Shuttle Columbia lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Onboard was what was then the largest payload ever carried by a Shuttle: the Chandra X-ray Observatory.
Following the success of our first poetry competition last year, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and Jonathan Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, have now run a second competition, in which Creative Writing students at De Montfort University in the U.K. were invited to write poems inspired by some of Chandra's findings. The final two entries of the four winning pieces are included here. Congratulations to all four winners.
Want more astropoetry? See these previous pieces.
Pat Slane, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, is a very busy guy. In addition to being the head of Chandra's Mission Planning group, he also conducts his own independent research into the study of supernova remnants and neutron stars (the aftermath of the massive stars that have exploded.) He also takes the time to participate in outreach, including heading up the "Stop for Science" project. Despite his hectic schedule, Pat sat down with the Chandra blog to discuss how he got where he is today in his career.
What does this image show? It looks very different from images that typically appear on our web-site, of galaxies and star clusters and exploded stars. It looks vaguely like a swarm of moths but with rectangular shapes that don't really look like wings. It might also pass for abstract art.
The answer is an astronomical one: this is a large mosaic showing Chandra observations from its archive centered on the Virgo Cluster. The rectangles are sets of charge-coupled devices (CCDs) on Chandra, showing X-ray emission from hot gas in the cluster's atmosphere, or around black holes. The rectangles often come in pairs because this is how a common configuration of Chandra CCDs appears on the sky: two square CCDs next to a set of three. The observations are scattered around because they targeted many different galaxies in and around Virgo.
New results based on the two objects shown here are challenging the prevailing ideas as to how supermassive black holes grow in the centers of galaxies. NGC 4342 and NGC 4291, the two galaxies in the study, are nearby in cosmic terms at distances of 75 million and 85 million light years respectively. In these composite images, X-rays from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory are colored blue, while infrared data from the 2MASS project are seen in red.
Astronomers had known from previous observations that these galaxies host black holes with unusually large masses compared to the mass contained in the central bulge of stars. To study the dark matter envelopes contained in each galaxy, Chandra was used to examine their hot gas content, which was found to be widespread in both objects.
For more context on CID-42 and the science of black hole kicks, we interviewed Professor Abraham (Avi) Loeb, one of the co-authors of the new paper. Avi is the director of the Institute for Theory and Computation, within the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and he is currently serving as Chair of the Department of Astronomy at Harvard University. He was recently elected to become a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Avi has worked on a wide variety of topics in astrophysics, including cosmology, black holes, gravitational lensing by planets and gamma-ray bursts in the distant Universe.
Q: How significant do you think this result is?
A: CID-42 is the best candidate for a massive black hole that might have been kicked out of the center of a galaxy with a high speed. An interesting mechanism for obtaining such a kick involves the merger of two black holes into the kicked black hole.
Following the success of our first poetry competition last year, Chandra X-ray Observatory and Jonathan Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, have run a second competition, in which Creative Writing students at De Montfort University in the U.K. were invited to write poems inspired by some of Chandra’s findings and research areas. For the first installment, two out of the four winning entries are shown below (See also part two). All of the entries explore, in their different ways, the overlap between poetry and scientific discovery. Congratulations to the winners and everyone involved for making this unique competition possible.
Nickname GRS 1915
the evaporating definitions
of space and time
like the disk clothing me
in a fight
This image of the Pinwheel Galaxy, or also known as M101, combines data in the infrared, visible, ultraviolet and X-rays from four of NASA's space-based telescopes. This multi-spectral view shows that both young and old stars are evenly distributed along M101's tightly-wound spiral arms. Such composite images allow astronomers to see how features in one part of the spectrum match up with those seen in other parts. It is like seeing with a regular camera, an ultraviolet camera, night-vision goggles and X-ray vision, all at the same time.
What has Chandra found (or not found) during the course of its mission in the important area of exploded stars and what they leave behind? Find out in this post in "The Unexpected" series.
Expected and Detected:
As anticipated, high-resolution X-ray images have provided new insight into the supernova process, the effect supernova shock waves have on the surrounding interstellar gas, the acceleration of particles by rotating neutron stars, and enabled the discovery of many stellar-mass black holes.
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