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Black Holes
X-ray Astronomy Field Guide
Black Holes
Questions and Answers
Black Holes
Chandra Images
Black Holes
Animations & Video: Black Holes
Click for high-resolution animation
1. Tour of Sagittarius A*
QuicktimeMPEG Over several years, astronomers have noticed flares in X-ray light from the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory detected these flares during the telescope's periodic observations of the black hole. A new study suggests that these flares may occur when the black hole - known as Sagittarrius A* or Sgr A* for short -- consumes an asteroid at least six miles wide. If an asteroid gets too close to another object like a star or planet, it can be thrown into an orbit headed toward Sgr A*. Once the asteroid passes within about 100 million miles of the black hole, it is torn into pieces by the black hole's tidal forces. Eventually, these fragments are vaporized by friction as they pass through the hot, thin gas flowing onto Sgr A*. This is what produces an X-ray flare. If confirmed, this result could mean that there is a cloud around Sgr A* containing trillions of asteroids and comets. This would be an exciting development for the many scientists who are fascinated by the Milky Way's giant black hole and the environment around it.
[Runtime: 01:17]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
2. Zoom in to Cygnus X-1
QuicktimeMPEG Cygnus X-1 is located near large active regions of star formation in the Milky Way. Cygnus X-1 is a black hole about 15 times the mass of the Sun in orbit with a massive blue companion star. Astronomers used several telescopes including Chandra to study Cygnus X-1. The combined data have revealed the spin, mass, and distance of this black hole more precisely than ever before.
[Runtime: 00:30]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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Click for high-resolution animation
3. Tour of Cygnus X-1
QuicktimeMPEG Over three decades ago, Stephen Hawking placed, and eventually lost, a bet against the existence of a black hole in Cygnus X-1. Today, astronomers are confident the Cygnus X-1 system contains a black hole. In fact, a team of scientists has combined data from radio, optical, and X-ray telescopes including Chandra to determine the black hole's spin, mass, and distance more precisely than ever before. With these key pieces of information, the history of the black hole has been reconstructed. This new information gives astronomers strong clues about how the black hole was born, how much it weighed, and how fast it was spinning. This is important because scientists still would like to know much more about the birth of black holes.
[Runtime: 00:55]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
4. Tour of NGC 3115
QuicktimeMPEG This is NGC 3115, a galaxy located about 32 million light years from Earth. This composite image contains X-rays from Chandra as well as optical data from the Very Large Telescope. Using the new Chandra image, astronomers have imaged the flow of hot gas as it falls toward the supermassive black hole in the center of NGC 3115. This is the first time such a flow has been clearly imaged in any black hole. The Chandra data also provide evidence that the black hole in NGC 3115 has a mass of about two billion times that of the Sun. This would make NGC 3115 the host of the nearest billion-solar-mass black hole to Earth.
[Runtime: 00:55]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
5. Tour of CDFS
QuicktimeMPEG This animation shows an artist's impression of a distant galaxy and its hidden black hole found in an epoch when the Universe was less than one billion years old. The galaxy contains regions of active star formation (blue) and large amounts of gas and dust (red). The view zooms into the galaxy, and a glowing disk of hot gas falling onto massive central object is seen. At the center of the disk is a supermassive black hole. Many types of radiation emitted from the disk are blocked by the veil of dust and gas, but very energetic X-rays are able to escape. Scientists found many of these black holes in the early Universe using the new Chandra Deep Field South.
[Runtime: 1.21]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
6. Multi-wavelength Views of the Chandra Deep Field South
QuicktimeMPEG This sequence of images begins with a large optical image of the southern sky. The view zooms into the 4-million-second exposure of the Chandra Deep Field South, and then an optical and infrared image from the Hubble Space Telescope is overlaid. The Chandra sources are blue in this composite image. After further zooming in, yellow circles appear to mark the positions of very distant galaxies that existed when the Universe was less than about 950 million years old. The two small Chandra sources on the right show that all of the low and high energy X-rays that have been added up at the positions of these galaxies. This provides evidence that growing black holes have been detected in 30% to 100% of the distant galaxies.
[Runtime: 0.27]
(X-ray: NASA/CXC/U. Hawaii/E. Treister et al; Infrared: NASA/STScI/UC Santa Cruz/G. Illingworth et al; Optical: Wide-field: Akira Fujii; Close-up: NASA/STScI/S. Beckwith et al)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
7. Animation of Hidden Baby Black Hole
QuicktimeMPEG This animation shows an artist's impression of a distant galaxy and its hidden black hole found in an epoch when the Universe was less than one billion years old. The galaxy contains regions of active star formation (blue) and large amounts of gas and dust (red). The view zooms into the galaxy, and a glowing disk of hot gas falling onto massive central object is seen. At the center of the disk is a supermassive black hole. Many types of radiation emitted from the disk are blocked by the veil of dust and gas, but very energetic X-rays are able to escape. Scientists found many of these black holes in the early Universe using the new Chandra Deep Field South.
[Runtime: 0.20]
View Stills
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
8. A Tour of GRS 1915+105
QuicktimeMPEG GRS 1915+105, or GRS 1915 for short, is a special system. Not only does it contain a black hole some 14 times more massive than the Sun in orbit with a companion star, it also has a heartbeat. Or, more exactly, it gives off X-ray pulses that resemble the pattern of a human heart, though on a much slower scale. By monitoring this system with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer, astronomers were able to pick out a spike of X-rays every 50 seconds or so. Researchers have determined that this heartbeat is due to the ebb and flow of material as it circles the black hole. This result gives scientists more insight into how black holes regulate their intake and control their growth.
[Runtime: 0.55]
(NASA/CXC/Harvard/J.Neilsen et al & A.Hobart)

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Click for high-resolution animation
9. GRS 1915's "Heartbeat" X-ray Variation
QuicktimeMPEG The heartbeat variation of GRS 1915 is shown here in a repeated cycle to emphasize the similarity between the X-ray light curve and an electrocardiogram. The period has been sped up by a factor of 40.
[Runtime: 0.20]
(NASA/CXC/Harvard/J.Neilsen et al)

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Click for high-resolution animation
10. Simulation of GRS 1915's "Heartbeat"
QuicktimeMPEG This movie shows a simulation of the heartbeat variation of GRS 1915. It shows an X-ray point source varying with time, based on an average X-ray light curve of GRS 1915 obtained with RXTE. The period of the heartbeat variation has been sped up by a factor of 10 and four cycles of the variation are shown.
[Runtime: 0.20]
(NASA/CXC/Harvard/J.Neilsen & A.Hobart)

Related Chandra Images: