Images by Date
Images by Category
Solar System
White Dwarfs
Neutron Stars
Black Holes
Milky Way Galaxy
Normal Galaxies
Galaxy Clusters
Cosmology/Deep Field
Images by Interest
Space Scoop for Kids
Sky Map
Photo Blog
Top Rated Images
Image Handouts
Fits Files
Image Tutorials
Photo Album Tutorial
False Color
Cosmic Distance
Look-Back Time
Scale & Distance
Angular Measurement
Images & Processing
Image Use Policy
Web Shortcuts
Chandra Blog
RSS Feed
Email Newsletter
News & Noteworthy
Image Use Policy
Questions & Answers
Glossary of Terms
Download Guide
Get Adobe Reader
Circinus X-1: Supernova Blast Provides Clues to Age of Binary Star System
Circinus X-1
Circinus X-1
Circinus X-1

  • The youngest member of a class of objects known as "X-ray binaries" has been found.

  • X-ray binaries are systems with either a black hole or neutron star in orbit with a companion star like our Sun.

  • Researchers found that the neutron star in Circinus X-1 is less than 4,600 years old, making the X-ray binary much younger than any other known in the Milky Way.

  • Data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Australia Telescope Compact Array were used in this study.

The youngest member of an important class of objects has been found using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Australia Compact Telescope Array. A composite image shows the X-rays in blue and radio emission in purple, which have been overlaid on an optical field of view from the Digitized Sky Survey. This discovery, described in the press release, allows scientists to study a critical phase after a supernova and the birth of a neutron star.

Systems known as "X-ray binaries" are some of the brightest X-ray sources in the sky. They consist of either an ultra-dense star packed with neutrons --- a.k.a., a "neutron star" --- or a black hole that is paired with a normal star like the Sun. As these two objects orbit one another, the neutron star or black hole pulls material from the companion star onto it.

A new study shows that the X-ray binary called Circinus X-1 is less than 4,600 years old, making it the youngest ever seen. Astronomers have detected hundreds of X-ray binaries throughout the Milky Way and other nearby galaxies. However, these older X-ray binaries only reveal information about what happens later in the evolution of these systems.

Circinus X-1 Infographic
Circinus X-1 Infographic

Astronomers were able to determine the age of Circinus X-1 by examining material around the orbiting pair. While the source itself has been known for decades, the neutron star is usually so bright that the glare from its X-ray light overwhelms any faint emission surrounding it. The new Chandra data were obtained while the neutron star was in a very faint state, which meant it was dim enough for astronomers to detect the faint afterglow created by the supernova explosion plowing through the surrounding interstellar gas. This, combined with characteristics of the radio emission, allowed the researchers to pinpoint the age of the supernova remnant. In turn, this information reveals the age of the neutron star since they were formed at the same time.

These results have been published in the December 4th issue of The Astrophysical Journal. In addition to those mentioned above, the other authors on this paper are Peter Jonker of the SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research, Niel Brandt of Penn State University, Daniel Emilio Calvelo-Santos of the University of Southampton, Tasso Tzioumis of the Australia Telescope National Facility, Michael Nowak and Norbert Schultz of the Kavli Institute/MIT, Rudy Wijnands and Michiel van der Klis of the University of Amsterdam.


Fast Facts for Circinus X-1:
Credit  X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison/S.Heinz et al; Optical: DSS; Radio: CSIRO/ATNF/ATCA
Release Date  December 4, 2013
Scale  Image is 10 arcmin across (about 76 light years)
Category  Neutron Stars/X-ray Binaries
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 15h 20m 41.00s | Dec -51° 10´ 00"
Constellation  Circinus
Observation Date  1 May 2009
Observation Time  27 hours 25 min (1 day 3 hours 25 min)
Obs. ID  10062
Instrument  ACIS
References Heinz, S et al, 2013, ApJ accepted.
Color Code  X-ray (Blue); Optical (Red, Green, Blue); Radio (Pink)
Distance Estimate  About 26,000 light years
distance arrow
Visitor Comments (7)

Awesome phenomenon brought by the Chandra to the viewers. Thanks

Posted by Ramanoudjam C on Tuesday, 04.17.18 @ 21:14pm

Love your reports Keeps me humble and amazed. Keep up the brilliant work.

Posted by RRon Troxell on Saturday, 11.11.17 @ 19:10pm


Posted by zaine on Tuesday, 05.24.16 @ 13:07pm

Evey time I read an article like this I learn something new.

Posted by Andrew on Thursday, 08.6.15 @ 22:14pm

This supernova must have occurred during the peak of the Egyptian empire and at a time that astronomical observers in China, India and some parts of Central America were beginning to take note of changes. Is this Supernova occurrence anywhere in the historical records?

Posted by Don Preston on Wednesday, 08.5.15 @ 12:54pm

Astonishing. . thrilling. proves human capacity and intelligence

Posted by Omkar Deole on Thursday, 01.16.14 @ 21:29pm

Amazing information. Brillant

Posted by Dr. Shahnaz Chowdhury on Saturday, 12.14.13 @ 09:12am

Rate This Image

Rating: 3.8/5
(724 votes cast)
Download & Share


1024x768 - 584.5 kb
1280x1024 - 780.8 kb
1680x1050 - 878.7 kb
More Information
More Images
X-ray Image of Circinus X-1
Jpg, Tif

More Images
Animation & Video
Supernova Blast Provides Clues to Age of Binary Star System
Click for high-resolution animation

More Animations
More Releases
Circinus X-1
Circinus X-1
(23 Jun 15)

Circinus X-1
Circinus X-1
(27 Jun 07)

Circinus X-1
Circinus X-1
(08 Nov 00)

Related Images
(12 Mar 03)
SS 433
SS 433
(05 Jan 04)

Related Information
Related Podcast
Top Rated Images
3C 58

Chandra Releases 3D Instagram Experiences

Timelapses: Crab Nebula and Cassiopeia A