Mergers and Acquisitions

Galaxy clusters are the largest objects in the universe held together by gravity. They can contain hundreds or thousands of galaxies held together in vast clouds of multi-million-degree gas glowing in X-rays.

The system known as Abell 2384 is the result of the collision of a pair galaxy cluster hundreds of millions of years ago. This composite image was put together using x-ray data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and XMM-Newton (blue) and radio data from the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope in India (red). It shows the superheated bridge of gas running through Abell 2384 and reveals the effects of a jet from a supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy in one of the clusters. The jet is so powerful that it bends the shape of the 3 million light-year long gas bridge which has the mass of about 6 trillion Suns.

Image Credit: NASA

Inside the Flame Nebula

NGC 2024Stars are often born in clusters, in giant clouds of gas and dust. This composite image shows one such cluster, NGC 2024, which is found in the center of the Flame Nebula about 1,400 light years from Earth. X-rays from the Chandra X-ray Observatory are shown in purple, and infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope are colored red, green, and blue.

Image Credit: NASA

A Multi-Wavelength Crab

This composite view of the Crab Nebula uses data from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory (blue and white), the Hubble Space Telescope (purple), and the Spitzer Space Telescope (pink). The nebula is the remnant of a supernova that was seen on Earth in AD 1054.

It’s powered by a pulsar, a quickly spinning neutron star  formed when a original star ran out nuclear fuel and collapsed. The combination of rapid rotation and a strong magnetic field in the Crab generates jets of matter and anti-matter moving away from the pulsar’s poles and an intense stellar wind flowing out of its equator.

Image Credit: NASA

The Extra Arms of M106

These galactic fireworks are taking place in and around the galaxy known as M106, a spiral galaxy with two extra spiral arms that glow with X-ray, optical, and radio light. These extra arms are not aligned with the plane of the galaxy.

This composite image reveals the oddball arms. X-rays detected by the Chandra X-ray Observatory are blue, radio data from the Very Large Array are purple, optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope are yellow, and infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope are red.

The Spitzer data shows that shock waves are heating a large amount of gas with a mass equivalent to about 10 million suns. The supermassive black hole at the center of M106 is producing powerful jets of high-energy particles. It appears that these jets strike the disk of the galaxy and generate shock waves. Those shock waves, in turn, heat the gas (mostly hydrogen) to thousands of degrees. The Chandra X-ray image reveals huge bubbles of hot gas above and below the plane of the galaxy. The gas was originally in the disk of the galaxy but has been ejected into the outer regions by the jets from the black hole.

The loss of gas from the disk by the jets has important implications for this galaxy’s future. Astronomers estimate that all of the remaining gas will be ejected within the next 300 million years. Because most of the gas in the disk has already been ejected, less gas is available for new stars to form. When all the gas is gone, star formation will come to an end.

Image Credit: ESA / NASA

Henize 2-10

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

Tycho’s Supernova

In 1572, Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe was among those who reported a new bright object in the constellation Cassiopeia. We now know that Tycho’s new star was not new at all. It was a supernova, a stellar explosion so bright that it can outshine the light from rest of the galaxy. This particular supernova was a Type Ia, which occurs when a white dwarf star pulls material from, or merges with, a nearby companion star until a violent explosion is triggered. The white dwarf star is obliterated, sending its debris hurtling into space.

This false color image of the remnant of Tycho’s supernova combines from the Chandra X-ray Observatory with optical data from the Digitized Sky Survey. It uses date from two narrow ranges of X-ray energies to isolate material (silicon, colored red) moving away from Earth, and moving towards us (also silicon, colored blue). The other colors in the image (yellow, green, blue-green, orange and purple) show a broad range of different energies and elements, and a mixture of directions of motion.

Image Credit: X-ray—NASA / CXC / RIKEN & GSFC / T. Sato et al; Optical: DSS