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Recent Podcast
A Quick Look at Jupiter's Auroras
A Quick Look at Jupiter's Auroras
A new study using Chandra and XMM-Newton data reveals that the auroras at Jupiter’s poles behave independently. (2017-11-07)
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Animations & Video: Featured Image Tours
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1. Tour of Chandra's Data Archives
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

Each year, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory helps celebrate American Archive Month by releasing a collection of images using X-ray data that have been stored in its archive.

The Chandra Data Archive is a sophisticated digital system that ultimately contains all of the data obtained by the telescope since its launch into space in 1999. Chandra's archive is a resource that makes these data available to the scientific community and the general public for years after they were originally obtained.

Each of these six new images also includes data from telescopes covering other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as visible and infrared light. This collection of images represents just a small fraction of the treasures that reside in Chandra's unique X-ray archive.
[Runtime: 01:38]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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Click for high-resolution animation
2. Tour of CL J1001
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

Galaxy clusters are incredibly important objects in the Universe since they are the largest objects in the Universe held together by gravity. Many galaxy clusters contain hundreds or even thousands of galaxies, enormous amounts of hot gas, and giant reservoirs of dark matter. For as much as they already know about galaxy clusters, astronomers are still seeking to learn more. This includes learning about how galaxy clusters first formed in the early Universe.

A new discovery by a team of researchers may represent an important step in that direction. Using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and several other telescopes on the ground and in space, researchers recently found a galaxy cluster that is about 11.1 billion light years from Earth. In addition to its remarkable distance, this cluster, known as CL J1001+0220, also displays some intriguing qualities. For example, astronomers find that the core of this cluster is ablaze with star formation. This is quite different from other galaxy clusters observed by astronomers, where star formation rates are very low. It may be that this galaxy cluster represents a brief, but important, stage of the evolution where a cluster transitions from a still-forming cluster into a mature one. Astronomers hope that they will learn a lot about the formation of clusters and the galaxies they contain by studying this object.
[Runtime: 02:19]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
3. Tour of Comets ISON & PanSTARRS
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

People on Earth have been watching comets in the sky for many thousands of years. Although many ancient cultures saw comets as signs of impending danger, today scientists know that comets are really frozen balls of dust, gas, and rock. They may have been responsible for delivering water to planets like Earth billions of years ago.

It may surprise people to hear that comets can provide information about other aspects of our Solar System. In particular, comets can be used as laboratories to study the behavior of the stream of particles flowing away from the Sun, known as the solar wind.

Recently, astronomers have performed such a study using observations with Chandra of two comets, named ISON and PanSTARRS. Chandra observed these two comets in 2013 when both were relatively close to Earth.

Scientists know that comets produce X-ray emission when particles in the solar wind strike the atmosphere of the comet. The Chandra data allowed scientists to estimate the amount of elements like carbon and nitrogen in the solar wind. They found values that agree with those from other missions, showing the value of X-ray observations for deriving the composition of the solar wind.
[Runtime: 02:21]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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4. Tour of Cyg X-3's Little Friend
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

The story of how stars are born and eventually die can be a complicated one. After all, the life and death of stars is determined by many factors including its mass and environment. Take, for example, Cygnus X-3. For decades, astronomers have studied this object and determined that it is a so-called X-ray binary. This means that it is, in fact, a pair of objects. One of the objects is a compact source - either a neutron star or black hole that was produced by the death of a massive star - that is pulling material away from the other object, a living companion star.

In 2003, astronomers noticed something else when observing Cygnus X-3 with Chandra. They saw another source very close to Cygnus X-3 on the sky. Thanks to Chandra's unparalleled X-ray vision, they were able to resolve this source even though it was a mere 16 arcseconds away on the sky. To put it another way, the separation of Cygnus X-3 and this new source is equivalent to the width of a penny about 800 feet away. Astronomers nicknamed this new object the "Little Friend."

Recently, a team of astronomers has combined Chandra data with radio data from the Submillimeter Array to learn more about both Cygnus X-3 and the Little Friend. They determined that the Little Friend is a Bok globule, which is a small, dense, very cold cloud. The radio data shows that the Little Friend is producing jets, indicating that a new star is forming inside. This unusual configuration of an X-ray binary so close to a Bok globule provides astronomers with a new way of studying how stars - or at least some of them - form.
[Runtime: 02:54]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

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5. Tour of Frontier Fields
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

Galaxy clusters are enormous collections of hundreds or even thousands of galaxies and vast reservoirs of hot gas embedded in massive clouds of dark matter. These cosmic giants are not merely novelties of size or girth. Instead, they represent pathways to understanding how our entire universe evolved in the past and where it may be heading in the future.

To learn more about galaxy clusters, including how they grow via collisions, astronomers have collected large quantities of data from some of the world's most powerful telescopes. They have used telescopes that detect different kinds of light to study a half dozen galaxy clusters in depth. The name for this galaxy cluster project is the "Frontier Fields".

Two of these Frontier Fields galaxy clusters, going by their abbreviated names, are MACS J0416 and MACS J0717. Located about 4.3 billion light years from Earth, MACS J0416 is a pair of colliding galaxy clusters that will eventually combine to form an even bigger cluster. MACS J0717, one of the most complex and distorted galaxy clusters known, is the site of a collision between four clusters. It is located about 5.4 billion light years away from Earth.

In the new Frontier Fields studies, astronomers combined data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope along with information in radio waves from the NSF's Very Large Array and the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope in India. They have found new details about both of these complex and colliding systems. Astronomers will continue to analyze the vast amounts of data from the Frontier Fields, which will help them learn more about these gigantic and important objects.
[Runtime: 03:03]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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6. Tour of G1.9+0.3
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

A little more than a century ago, as seen from the Earth, a star exploded near the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Astronomers think that this object represents one of the last stars to undergo a supernova explosion in our Galaxy. Today, the object is known as G1.9+0.3. In addition to its relative timeliness, G1.9+0.3 is also of interest to astronomers because it belongs to a special subset of supernovas called Type Ias. These are important supernovas because astronomers think they explode with a consistent brightness, which allows them to be used as cosmic distance markers. Type Ia supernovas were used to determine that the expansion of the Universe was accelerating.

As important as these objects are, astronomers are still unsure exactly what causes them. There is a consensus that Type Ias occur when a white dwarf undergoes a thermonuclear explosion, but what triggers that detonation? The two main candidates are either the accumulation of material on a white dwarf's surface from a companion star, or the merger of two white dwarfs.

A new study using X-ray data from Chandra and radio data from the Very Large Array reveals that at least one Type Ia was caused by the merger of two white dwarfs. This supernova left behind the remnant called G1.9+0.3. The researchers determined this by examining how the blast wave from the explosion interacts with the material surrounding the doomed star. Clues from this interaction led them to conclude that a white dwarf merger was responsible for this particular stellar explosion. While this doesn't mean that all Type Ia supernovas are caused by white dwarf mergers, it does imply that at least some of them are. It's important to determine exactly what the trigger mechanism or mechanisms for Type Ias are, since that could affect how they are used in the critical measurements of vast distances across the Universe.
[Runtime: 03:33]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

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7. Tour of G11.2-0.3
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

While they may sound like very different and distinct fields, astronomy and history can intersect in very interesting and important ways. Take, for example, historical supernovas and their remnants. These are objects that astronomers observe today and that can also be linked to recordings in previous centuries or even millennia. Being able to tie a credible historical event with a supernova remnant observed today provides crucial information about these explosive stellar events.

Until now, the supernova remnant G11.2-0.3 was considered one of these historical supernova remnants. Previous studies have suggested that G11.2-0.3 was created in a supernova that was witnessed by Chinese astronomers in 386 CE. New Chandra data, however, of this circle shaped debris field, indicate that is not the case. The latest information from Chandra reveals that there are dense clouds of gas that lie between Earth and the supernova remnant. Therefore, it is not possible that much optical light from the supernova - the kind of light humans can see - would have penetrated the clouds and been visible with the naked eye at Earth. While it may no longer be a historical supernova remnant, G11.2-0.3 remains an intriguing and beautiful object that astronomers will continue to study.
[Runtime: 02:19]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
8. Tour of Galaxy Clusters
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

Since its discovery almost two decades ago, dark energy has remained one of the biggest mysteries in science. Astronomers know that dark energy is responsible for the current accelerating expansion of the Universe, but they are still trying to determine just what it is.

A new study tries to tackle the questions surrounding dark energy by examining properties of X-ray emission from galaxy clusters. Galaxy clusters are the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity and they contain enormous amounts of hot gas that glow in X-ray light. Researchers know that galaxy clusters possess another interesting quality: the more massive ones are simply scaled up versions of the smaller ones -- like Russian dolls that fit inside one another.

Astronomers can take advantage of this fact to use galaxy clusters as cosmic distance markers. Since dark energy is pushing the Universe apart, the different distances of these galaxy clusters reveals clues about the nature of dark energy itself.

The latest research, looking at over 300 galaxy clusters, shows that dark energy does not appear to change over billions of years. This supports the idea that dark energy is what Einstein called the cosmological constant, which is the equivalent to the energy of empty space. While this new study is very exciting, there is still much to be learned before we know exactly what dark energy is, how it has affected the Universe in the past, and what it might do in the future.
[Runtime: 02:32]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
9. Tour of GJ 3253
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

Despite appearing as a steady yellow disk in our sky, the Sun is actually an incredibly active ball of superheated gas. Sometimes the Sun has storms that launch from its surface and send energy and particles into the Solar System. On Earth, these solar storms can generate auroras, damage satellites and power grids, and potentially harm astronauts in orbit.

Therefore, many scientists are working hard to better understand what causes the Sun to act as it does. They do know that the Sun's magnetic fields are largely responsible for producing its behavior, but there are still many details that remain mysterious.

By studying the X-ray emission of four stars with lower masses than the Sun, a pair of astronomers may have made an important discovery. They found that these lower-mass stars have magnetic fields that are similar in strength to stars like the Sun. This is surprising because the Sun and Sun-like stars have different regions within them where energy flows differently. Astronomers have thought the boundary between these different regions would contribute to the strength of the magnetic fields. If stars without such a boundary - like those in this latest study - have magnetic fields of similar strength, then this theory may need to be re-examined.
[Runtime: 02:23]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
10. Tour of GRB 140903A
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

Gamma-ray bursts are some of the most powerful explosions in the Universe. As their name implies, these events produce spectacular outbursts in gamma rays and often in other types of light over time such as X-rays and optical light. By studying the details of these different types of light, astronomers try to piece together exactly what is going on with these cosmic blasts.

On September 3, 2014, instruments aboard the Swift telescope picked up a gamma-ray burst, which was dubbed GRB 140903A. About three weeks later, a team of researchers used Chandra to study the afterglow of the event in X-rays.

By combining the Chandra observations with optical data from ground-based telescopes, astronomers have determined that GRB 140903A was the merger of two neutron stars in a galaxy about 3.9 billion light years from Earth. In addition, they found evidence that the gamma-ray burst produced pencil-thin beams of radiation. Astronomers were only able to detect this event because the jets generated by the blast were pointed toward Earth.

What does this mean? The implication is that if some or all mergers like this produce these narrow beams, then astronomers may be missing a vast majority of them because they do not fall along our line of sight. This is interesting to many scientists who study these kinds of events. And since neutron star mergers are thought to be sources of gravitational waves, scientists using LIGO and other future observatories will need to know this information in order to hone their searches.
[Runtime: 02:59]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images: