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NASA's Chandra Opens Treasure Trove of Cosmic Delights
Chandra Archive Collection

  • A new montage of images showcases the combination of data from telescopes that collect different kinds of light.

  • The "multiwavelength" approach to astronomy is crucial to getting a complete understanding of objects in space.

  • NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory provides the X-ray view of the objects in this collection.

  • Two galaxies, a galaxy cluster, supernova remnant, double star system, and planetary nebula are represented.

Humanity has "eyes" that can detect all different types of light through telescopes around the globe and a fleet of observatories in space. From radio waves to gamma rays, this "multiwavelength" approach to astronomy is crucial to getting a complete understanding of objects in space.

This compilation gives examples of images from different missions and telescopes being combined to better understand the science of the universe. Each of these images contains data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory as well as other telescopes. Various types of objects are shown (galaxies, supernova remnants, stars, planetary nebulas), but together they demonstrate the possibilities when data from across the electromagnetic spectrum are assembled.

Top row, from left to right:

M82

M82
Messier 82, or M82, is a galaxy that is oriented edge-on to Earth. This gives astronomers and their telescopes an interesting view of what happens as this galaxy undergoes bursts of star formation. X-rays from Chandra (appearing as blue and pink) show gas in outflows about 20,000 light years long that has been heated to temperatures above ten million degrees by repeated supernova explosions. Optical light data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope (red and orange) shows the galaxy.

Abell 2744

Abell 2744
Galaxy clusters are the largest objects in the universe held together by gravity. They contain enormous amounts of superheated gas, with temperatures of tens of millions of degrees, which glows brightly in X-rays, and can be observed across millions of light years between the galaxies. This image of the Abell 2744 galaxy cluster combines X-rays from Chandra (diffuse blue emission) with optical light data from Hubble (red, green, and blue).

Supernova 1987A

Supernova 1987A (SN 1987A)
On February 24, 1987, observers in the southern hemisphere saw a new object in a nearby galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud. This was one of the brightest supernova explosions in centuries and soon became known as Supernova 1987A (SN 87A). The Chandra data (blue) show the location of the supernova's shock wave — similar to the sonic boom from a supersonic plane — interacting with the surrounding material about four light years from the original explosion point. Optical data from Hubble (orange and red) also shows evidence for this interaction in the ring.

Bottom row, from left to right:

Eta Carinae

Eta Carinae
What will be the next star in our Milky Way galaxy to explode as a supernova? Astronomers aren't certain, but one candidate is in Eta Carinae, a volatile system containing two massive stars that closely orbit each other. This image has three types of light: optical data from Hubble (appearing as white), ultraviolet (cyan) from Hubble, and X-rays from Chandra (appearing as purple emission). The previous eruptions of this star have resulted in a ring of hot, X-ray emitting gas about 2.3 light years in diameter surrounding these two stars.

Cartwheel Galaxy

Cartwheel Galaxy
This galaxy resembles a bull's eye, which is appropriate because its appearance is partly due to a smaller galaxy that passed through the middle of this object. The violent collision produced shock waves that swept through the galaxy and triggered large amounts of star formation. X-rays from Chandra (purple) show disturbed hot gas initially hosted by the Cartwheel galaxy being dragged over more than 150,000 light years by the collision. Optical data from Hubble (red, green, and blue) show where this collision may have triggered the star formation.

Helix Nebula

Helix Nebula
When a star like the Sun runs out of fuel, it expands and its outer layers puff off, and then the core of the star shrinks. This phase is known as a "planetary nebula," and astronomers expect our Sun will experience this in about 5 billion years. This Helix Nebula images contains infrared data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope (green and red), optical light from Hubble (orange and blue), ultraviolet from NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (cyan), and Chandra's X-rays (appearing as white) showing the white dwarf star that formed in the center of the nebula. The image is about four light years across.

Three of these images — SN 1987A, Eta Carinae, and the Helix Nebula — were developed as part of NASA's Universe of Learning (UoL), an integrated astrophysics learning and literacy program, and specifically UoL's ViewSpace project. The UoL brings together experts who work on Chandra, the Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and other NASA astrophysics missions.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Chandra program. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's Chandra X-ray Center controls science from Cambridge Massachusetts and flight operations from Burlington, Massachusetts.

 

Fast Facts for M82:
Credit:   X-ray: NASA/CXC; Optical: NASA/STScI
Release Date:  September 2, 2020
Scale:  Image is about 12.75 arcmin (42,000 light years) across
Category  Normal Galaxies & Starburst Galaxies
Coordinates (J2000):   RA 09h 55m 50.70s | +69° 40" 37.00'
Constellation:  Ursa Major
Observation Dates:  22 pointings from 20 Sep 1999 to 03 Feb 2014
Observation Time:  228 hours 12 minutes (9 days, 12 hours, 26 minutes)
Obs. IDs:  361, 378-380, 1302, 2933, 5644, 6097, 6361, 8190, 10025-10027, 10542-10545, 10925, 11104, 11800, 13796, 15616
Instrument:  ACIS
Color Code:  X-ray: blue (0.5-1.2 keV), magenta (1.2-2.0 keV), green (2.0-7.0 kev); Optical: red, orange
Distance Estimate:  About 11.4 million light years
Optical
X-ray
distance arrow

 

Fast Facts for Abell 2744:
Credit:  X-ray: NASA/CXC; Optical: NASA/STScI
Release Date:  September 2, 2020
Scale:  Image is about 7 arcmin (6 million light years) across
Category:  Groups & Clusters of Galaxies
Coordinates (J2000):  RA 00h 14m 19.5s | Dec -30° 23' 19.2"
Constellation:  Sculptor
Observation Dates:  5 pointings between Sep 2001 and Sep 2007
Observation Time:  35 hours 15 minutes (1 day, 11 hours, 15 minutes)
Obs. IDs:  2212, 7712, 7915, 8477, 8557
Instrument:  ACIS
Color Code:  X-ray: blue; Optical: red, green, blue
Distance Estimate  About 3.5 billion light years
Optical
X-ray
distance arrow

 

Facts for Supernova 1987A:
Credit:   X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/PSU/K. Frank et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI
Release Date:  September 2, 2020
Scale:  Image is about 20 arcsec (14 light years) across
Category:  Supernovas & Supernova Remnants
Coordinates (J2000):  RA 05h 35m 28.30s | Dec -69° 16" 11.10'
Constellation:  Dorado
Observation Dates:  4 pointings between Jan 2008 and Jan 2009; Timelapse: 33 pointings between Oct 1999 and Sept 2015
Observation Time:  22 hours 13 minutes
Obs. IDs:  9142, 9143, 9806, 10130, 122, 1044, 1387, 1967, 2831, 2832, 3829, 3830, 4614, 4615, 5579, 5580, 6668, 6669, 7636, 7637, 9142-9144, 10130, 10222, 10855, 11090, 12539, 12540, 13131, 13735, 14697, 14698, 15809, 15810, 16756, 16757
Instrument:  ACIS
Color Code:  X-ray: blue); Optical: red
Distance Estimate  About 168,000 light years
Optical
X-ray
distance arrow

 

Facts for Eta Carinae:
Credit:   X-ray: NASA/CXC; Ultraviolet/Optical: NASA/STScI; Combined Image: NASA/ESA/N. Smith (University of Arizona), J. Morse (BoldlyGo Institute) and A. Pagan
Release Date:  September 2, 2020
Scale:  Image is about 1.1 arcmin (2.4 light years) across
Category:  Normal Stars & Star Clusters
Coordinates (J2000):  RA 10h 45m 04s | Dec -59° 41' 03"
Constellation:  Carina
Observation Dates:  8 pointings between Sep 1999 and Feb 2009
Observation Time:  30 hours (1 day 6 hours)
Obs. IDs:  50, 1249, 4455, 9933-9937
Instrument:  ACIS
Color Code:  X-ray: blue, purple; Ultraviolet: light blue; Optical: red; Infrared: red, green, blue
Distance Estimate  About 7,500 light years
IR
Optical
UV
X-ray
distance arrow

 

Facts for Cartwheel Galaxy:
Credit:   X-ray: NASA/CXC; Optical: NASA/STScI
Release Date:  September 2, 2020
Scale:  Image is about 2.3 arcmin (270,000 light years) across
Category:  Normal Galaxies & Starburst Galaxies
Coordinates (J2000):  RA 00h 37m 41.1s | Dec -33° 42' 59"
Constellation:  Sculptor
Observation Dates:  May 26, 2001
Observation Time:  21 hours 9 minutes
Obs. IDs:  2019
Instrument:  ACIS
Color Code:  X-ray: purple; Optical: red, green, blue
Distance Estimate  About 400 million light years
Optical
X-ray
distance arrow

 

Facts for Helix Nebula:
Credit:  X-ray: NASA/CXC; Ultraviolet: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSC; Optical: NASA/STScI(M. Meixner)/ESA/NRAO(T.A. Rector); Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech/K. Su
Release Date:  September 2, 2020
Scale:  Image is 22 arcmin (4.2 light years) across
Category:  Supernovas & Supernova Remnants
Coordinates (J2000):  RA 22h 29m 38.55s | Dec -20° 50' 13.6"
Constellation:  Aquarius
Observation Dates:  2 pointings Nov 17 & 18, 1999
Observation Time:  13 hours 26 minutes
Obs. IDs:  631, 1480
Instrument:  ACIS
Color Code:  X-ray: purple; Ultraviolet: light blue; Optical: red, green, blue; Infrared: aqua, red
Distance Estimate  About 650 light years
IR
Optical
UV
X-ray
distance arrow
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