X-Ray Vision

chandra-deep-field-southThis image was made with over 7 million seconds (about 11-1/2 weeks) of Chandra X-Ray Observatory observing time. It’s part of the Chandra Deep Field-South and is the deepest X-ray image ever obtained. This look at the early Universe in X-rays gives astronomers the best look yet at the growth of black holes over billions of years starting soon after the Big Bang. In this image, low, medium, and high-energy X-rays that Chandra detects are shown as red, green, and blue respectively.

Image Credit: NASA

A Dwarf with a Supermassive Black Hole

A dwarf starburst galaxy about 30 million light years from Earth.Henize 2-10 is a dwarf galaxy, and it is the first dwarf galaxy ever discovered to contain a supermassive black hole at its center. This was surprising because the black hole is about one quarter of the size of the one at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. However, Henize 2-10 is only about1/1,000th the size of the Milky Way..

This image combines x-ray (Chandra), visible light (Hubble), and radio telescope (Very Large Array) views.

Image Credit: NASA / NRAO

Perseus A

perseusCluster_cxc_cThe Perseus Cluster is a group of several thousand galaxies around 250 million light-years away. It’s one of the most massive objects in the Universe and the brightest galaxy cluster as seen in x-rays. Perseus A (NGC 1275), a giant cannibal galaxy, sits at the center of the cluster accreting matter as gas and whole galaxies fall into it. This Chandra Observatory x-ray image spans about 300,000 light-years across the galaxy cluster core showing remarkable details of the x-ray emission from the monster central galaxy and surrounding super hot (30 to 70 million °C) cluster gas. The bright central object is the supermassive black hole at the core of Perseus A. Low density regions are seen as dark bubbles or voids which are believed to be generated by cyclic outbursts of activity from the black hole. The activity creates pressure waves that move through the x-ray hot gas—sound waves on a cosmic scale. The blue-green wisps just above centre in this false-color view are probably x-ray shadows of the remains of a small galaxy being swallowed by Perseus A.

Image Credit: NASA

A Star-Shattering Kaboom

Cassiopeia A is  expanding debris cloud from a stellar explosion, a supernova. This picture was the result of a one million second exposure using the Chandra X-Ray Observatory.  In the false-color image, Cas A’s outer green ring, around 10 light-years across, marks the location of the expanding shock from the original supernova explosion. A structure extends beyond the ring (at about 10 o’clock), evidence that the initial explosion may have also produced energetic jets. The tiny point source near the center of Cas A is a neutron star, the collapsed remains of the stellar core. Cas A is about 10,000 light-years away, but light from the supernova explosion first reached Earth just over 300 years ago.

Image Credit: NASA

A Black Hole at the Bullseye

The rings in this image surround a black hole that is part of a binary system called V404 Cygni. Located about 7,800 light years away from Earth, the black hole is sucking material away from a companion star. The material in the rings glows in x-rays, so astronomers refer to such systems as “x-ray binaries.” The x-ray images of the rings were captured by the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory. (I designed some of the assemblies in the power and thermal control systems for one of the instruments on Swift.)

Image Credits
X-ray: NASA / CXC / U.Wisc-Madison / S. Heinz et al.
Optical / IR: Pan-STARR

A Crowded Neighborhood

m60The densest galaxy in the nearby Universe may be this galaxy known as M60-UCD1. It is located near a massive elliptical galaxy called M60, about 54 million light years from Earth. Packed with an extraordinary number of stars, M60-UCD1 is an “ultra-compact dwarf galaxy”. It was discovered with the Hubble Space Telescope and follow-up observations were done with the Chandra X-ray Observatory and ground-based optical telescopes. It is the most luminous known galaxy of its type and one of the most massive, weighing 200 million times more than our Sun.

This composite image shows the region near M60. Data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory are pink and data from the Hubble Space Telescope are red, green and blue. The Chandra image shows hot gas and double stars containing black holes and neutron stars and the Hubble image reveals stars in M60 at the right edge of the frame.

Image Credit: NASA