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More Images of Circinus X-1
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X-ray & Optical Images of Circinus X-1
Chandra data of Circinus X-1 reveal a set of four rings that appear as circles around the neutron star, providing a rare opportunity to determine the distance to an object on the other side of the Milky Way galaxy. These rings can be seen in the composite image of X-rays from Chandra (red, green, and blue) with a visible light image from the Digitized Sky Survey. These rings are light echoes, which are produced when a burst of X-rays from the star system ricochets off of clouds of dust between Circinus X-1 and Earth. By combining the X-rays with radio data, astronomers can use relatively simple geometry to pinpoint the location of the intervening clouds and then Circinus X-1.
(Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison/S.Heinz et al; Optical: DSS)

Illustration of Circinus X-1
This artist's illustration shows in detail how the ringed structure seen by Chandra is produced. Each ring is caused by X-rays from the Circinus X-1 flare bouncing off of different dust clouds. If the cloud is closer to us, the ring appears to be larger. The result, as seen by Chandra, is a set of concentric rings with different apparent sizes depending on the distance of the intervening cloud from us. The physical sizes of the rings, using the labels given the illustration, are 41 light years (ring a), 49 light years (ring b), 55 light years (ring c), and 52 light years (ring d).
(Credit: Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison/S.Heinz.)

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