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Recent Podcast
A Tour of CXO J101527.2+625911
A Tour of CXO J101527.2+625911
Giant black holes are generally stationary objects, sitting at the centers of most galaxies. However, using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes, astronomers recently hunted down a supermassive black hole that may be on the move. (2017-05-11)
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Animations & Video: Featured Image Tours
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1. Tour of DEM L241
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

When a massive star runs out fuel, it collapses and explodes as a supernova. Although these explosions are extremely powerful, it is possible for a nearby star to endure the blast. A team of astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes has found evidence for one of these survivors. This hardy star is in a stellar explosion's debris field - also called its supernova remnant - located in an HII region called DEM L241. An HII (pronounced "H-two") region is created when the radiation from hot, young stars strips away the electrons from neutral hydrogen atoms to form clouds of ionized hydrogen. This particular HII region is located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small neighboring galaxy to the Milky Way. The supernova remnant remains hot for thousands of years after the original explosion occurred, and this means that it continues to glow brightly in X-rays that can be detected by Chandra. The data suggest that a point-like source in X-rays is one component of a binary star system. In such a celestial pair, either a neutron star or black hole, which is formed when the star went supernova, is in orbit with a star much larger than our Sun. As they orbit one another, the dense neutron star or black hole pulls material away its companion star through the wind of particles that flows away from its surface. If this result is confirmed, DEM L241 would be only the third binary containing both a massive star and a neutron star or black hole ever found in the aftermath of a supernova.
[Runtime: 01:59]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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2. Tour of Eta Carinae
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

The Eta Carinae star system does not lack for superlatives. First, it contains one of the biggest and brightest stars in our galaxy, weighing at least 90 times the mass of the Sun. It is also extremely volatile and astronomers expect it will have at least one supernova explosion in the future. As one of the first objects observed by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory after its launch some 15 years ago, this double star system continues to reveal new clues about its nature through the X-rays it generates. New Chandra data are helping astronomers better understand how the two stars in Eta Carinae interact with one another through powerful winds blowing off their surfaces. As the two stars travel around each other in their elliptical orbits, the amount of X-rays detected changes. This gives astronomers clues to what is happening between these stars now and what may happen to this system in the future.
[Runtime: 01:15]
(NASA/CXC/April Jubett)

Related Chandra Images:

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3. Tour of Flame Nebula
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

Astronomers have made an important advance in the understanding of how clusters of stars like our Sun form using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and infrared telescopes. The data show early notions of how star clusters are formed cannot be correct. The simplest idea is stars form into clusters when a giant cloud of gas and dust condenses. The center of the cloud pulls in material from its surroundings until it becomes dense enough to trigger star formation. This process occurs in the center of the cloud first, implying that the stars in the middle of the cluster form first and, therefore, are the oldest. These new results suggest something else is happening. By studying two clusters where Sun-like stars are forming - NGC 2024 (located in the center of the "Flame Nebula") and the Orion Nebula Cluster - researchers have discovered the stars on the outskirts of the clusters are actually the oldest. The researchers will use this same technique of combining X-rays and infrared data to study the age range in other clusters. In the meantime, scientists will be hard at work to develop other, more complex ideas to explain what they've seen in NGC 2024 and the Orion Nebula Cluster.
[Runtime: 01:32]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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4. Tour of G352.7-0.1
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

Supernovas are the spectacular ends to the lives of many massive stars. These explosions, which occur on average twice a century in the Milky Way, can produce enormous amounts of energy and be as bright as an entire galaxy. These events are also important because the remains of the shattered star are hurled into space. As this debris field - called a supernova remnant - expands, it carries the material it encounters along with it. Astronomers have found a supernova remnant that is sweeping up a remarkable amount of material – equivalent to 45 times the mass of the Sun. This may indicate that a special type of stellar evolution has occurred, involving a giant star that ran into unusually dense material before exploding to form a supernova remnant. This supernova - which is called G352.7-0.1 -- has other interesting traits that scientists are still looking to explain. G352.7-0.1 is found about 24,000 light years from Earth in the Milky Way galaxy.
[Runtime: 01:17]
( NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Click for high-resolution animation
5. Tour of IGR J11014-6103
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

Astronomers have found a remarkable object in our Milky Way galaxy. This object is a pulsar, the spinning dense core that remains after a massive star has exploded and collapsed. When this pulsar was created, something interesting happened because this pulsar is racing away from the supernova remnant where it was born at a speed between 2.5 million and 5 million miles per hour. This supersonic pace makes this pulsar - called IGR J1104-6103 -- one of the fastest moving pulsars ever observed. And what's more is that this runaway pulsar is leaving behind an extraordinary tail behind it as it goes. This tail is about 37 light years in length, making it the longest X-ray jet ever seen from an object in the Milky Way galaxy. New data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have been combined with radio data from the Australia Telescope Compact Array to provide astronomers with a more complete picture of what's happening in this system. For example, these data show that the tail has a distinct corkscrew shape. This suggests that the pulsar is wobbling like a top as it spins. IGR J1104-6103 is located about 60 light years away from the center of the supernova remnant SNR MSH 11-61A, which is where astronomers think the pulsar was originally created. By examining the details of the pulsar, its jet, and the supernova remnant, astronomers are piecing together the story of this exceptional object in our Galaxy.
[Runtime: 01:54]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

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6. Tour of M51
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

The galaxy Messier 51 is perhaps better known by its nickname, the "Whirlpool Galaxy." Like the Milky Way, the Whirlpool is a spiral galaxy with spectacular arms of stars and dust. M51 is located about 30 million light years from Earth, and its face-on orientation to Earth gives us a perspective that we can never get of our own spiral galactic home. By studying the Whirlpool in X-ray light, astronomers can reveal things that would otherwise be invisible in other wavelengths. For example, nearly a million seconds of observing time from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory were used to create this new image. These data reveal over 400 X-ray sources within the galaxy. Most of these are so-called X-ray binary systems, in which a neutron star or black hole is in orbit with a star like our Sun. Understanding where these systems are, how they behave over time, and their role in the evolution of the galaxy in important is helping learn us more about other galaxies including our own.
[Runtime: 01:22]
(NASA/CXC/April Jubett)

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7. Tour of M82 SN2014J
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

Earlier this year, astronomers discovered one of the closest supernovas in decades. Now, new data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has provided information on the environment of the star before it exploded, and insight into the possible cause of the explosion. On January 21, 2014, astronomers witnessed a supernova just days after it went off in the Messier 82, or M82, galaxy. Telescopes across the globe and in space turned their attention to study this newly exploded star. Astronomers quickly determined this supernova, dubbed SN 2014J, belongs to a class of explosions called "Type Ia" supernovas. These supernovas are used as cosmic distance-markers and played a key role in the discovery of the Universe's accelerated expansion, which has been attributed to the effects of dark energy.

While astronomers agree that Type Ia supernovas occur when a white dwarf star explodes, they are not sure exactly how this happens. For example, do these supernovas go off when the white dwarf pulls too much material from a companion star like the Sun, or when two white dwarf stars merge? Researchers used Chandra to look for clues. They took observations with Chandra about three weeks after 2014J and compared it with Chandra data taken prior to the explosion. They found, well, nothing.

Although it may sound counterintuitive, this non-detection of X-rays actually told astronomers quite a bit. Specifically, it showed that the environment around the star was relatively free of material before it exploded. This means that it's very unlikely that a messy transfer of material between the white dwarf and a companion star took place. Rather, whatever caused SN 2014J to explode cleared out the space around the star beforehand. This helps astronomers narrow down the possibilities and get closer to the answer of just what caused SN 2014J.
[Runtime: 03:16]
(NASA/CXC/April Jubett)

Related Chandra Images:

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8. Tour of M82X-2
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

Ultraluminous X-ray Sources, or ULXs, are unusual objects. They are rare and, as their name implies, give off enormous amounts of X-rays. Until now, astronomers thought that ULXs were powered by a system where a stellar mass black hole was in orbit around a neutron star or black hole. However, a study using data from NASA's NuSTAR and Chandra X-ray Observatory shows that this class of objects is more diverse than that. With NuSTAR, astronomers discovered regular variations, or pulsations, coming from a small region in the center of the galaxy M82, which is located about 11.4 million light years from Earth. The researchers then used Chandra, with its exceptionally keen vision in X-ray light, to pinpoint exactly which source was giving off these pulsations. This source is called M82X-2. It's hard to explain how a system with a black hole could generate the pulsations seen by NuSTAR. Because of this and other data, astronomers think that M82X-2 is the brightest pulsar ever seen. Pulsars are rapidly spinning neutron stars that sweep beams of radiation out like a lighthouse, and this is what would explain the pulsations of X-ray light seen in M82X-2. ULXs just became a little more unusual and intriguing to study.
[Runtime: 01:43]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

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9. Tour of NGC 2207 and IC 2163
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

At this time of year, there are lots of gatherings often decorated with festive lights. When galaxies get together, there is also the chance of a spectacular light show. Take, for example, NGC 2207 and IC 2163. Located about 130 million light years from Earth in the constellation of Canis Major in the southern hemisphere, this pair of spiral galaxies is caught in a grazing encounter. This system has hosted three supernova explosions in the past 15 years, which is quite a few in such a short time.

This galactic pair has also produced one of the most bountiful collections of super bright X-ray lights known. These special objects - officially known as "ultraluminous X-ray sources" or ULXs - have been found using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. As in our Milky Way galaxy, NGC 2207 and IC 2163 are sprinkled with many systems known as X-ray binaries, which consist of a star in a tight orbit around either a neutron star or a "stellar-mass" black hole. The strong gravity of the neutron star or black hole pulls matter from the companion star. As this matter falls toward the neutron star or black hole, it is heated to millions of degrees and generates X-rays. ULXs are far brighter in X-rays than most "normal" X-ray binaries. While the true nature of ULXs is still debated, they are likely an unusual type of X-ray binary. For example, some astronomers think that the black holes in some ULXs may be heavier than stellar mass black holes and could represent a hypothesized, but as yet unconfirmed, intermediate-mass category of black holes. Regardless of what they are, ULXs put on intriguing X-ray light displays no matter what the season.
[Runtime: 02:14]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
10. Tour of NGC 4258 (M106)
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only With closed-captions (at YouTube)

NGC 4258, also known as Messier 106, is a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way. This galaxy is famous, however, for something that our Galaxy doesn’t have – two extra spiral arms that glow in X-ray, optical, and radio light. These features, or anomalous arms, are not aligned with the plane of the galaxy, but instead intersect with it. The X-ray image from Chandra reveals huge bubbles of hot gas above and below the plane of the galaxy. These bubbles indicate that much of the gas that was originally in the disk of the galaxy has been heated to millions of degrees and ejected into the outer regions by the jets from the black hole. The ejection of gas from the disk by the jets has important implications for the fate of this galaxy. Researchers estimate that all of the remaining gas will be ejected within the next 300 million years -- very soon on cosmic time scales – unless it is somehow replenished. Without this gas, relatively few stars can form there. In fact, scientists estimate that that star formation in the central region of NGC 4258 is already being choked off, with stars forming at a rate ten times less than in the Milky Way galaxy.
[Runtime: 01:42]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images: