Multiwavelength Data Sonification: The Galactic Center

This reimagines combined x-ray, visible light, and infrared data from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Spitzer Space Telescope as sound rather than an image.

Video Credit: NASA

A Galaxy on Edge

Spiral Galaxy NGC 4565NGC 4565 is sometimes called the Needle Galaxy. It’s an edge-on spiral galaxy located about 30 million light-years away in the constellation Coma Berenices (Berenice’s Hair). Its bright yellowish central bulge juts out above impressive dust lanes. Its shape suggested that it is a barred spiral galaxy, and Spitzer Space Telescope data confirmed the presence of a central bar.

Image Credit: ESO

A Cloud of Cosmic Chaos

This composite view of the Orion Nebula was assembled using imaged from the Hubble and Spritzer Space Telescopes. Hubble’s visible light and UV images show hydrogen and sulfur that have been ionized but intense UV radiation from a group of massive stars in this star-forming region. Spitzer’s infrared data reveals carbon-rich molecules in the cloud. And both sets of images are filled with a rainbow of dots of stars.

Image Credit: NASA

An Infrared View of the Trifid Nebula

The Trifid Nebula, aka M20, is easy to find with a small telescope. It’s a well known object in the nebula rich constellation Sagittarius. Visible light pictures show the nebula divided into three parts by dark, obscuring dust lanes, but this infrared image reveals filaments of luminous gas and newborn stars. This false-color view was taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope. The Trifid is about 30 light-years across and around 5,500 light-years away.

Image Credit: NASA

A Cosmic Bullseye

This false color image of galaxy NGC 1921 was taken in infrared light by the Spitzer Space Telescope. The outer red ring is filled with new stars that are igniting and heating up surrounding dust which glows in infrared light. The stars in the center of the galaxy produce shorter-wavelength infrared light which is color-coded blue. The old stars in the center have long ago gobbled up the available gas supply, the fuel for making new stars.

NGC 1921 is roughly 12 billion years old. It is known as a barred galaxy because a central bar of stars (which appears as a blue S in this view) dominates its center. When barred galaxies are young and gas-rich, the stellar bars draw gas toward the center, feeding star formation there. As that star-making fuel runs out, the central regions calm down, and star-formation activity moves to the outskirts of a galaxy. There, spiral density waves and resonances induced by the central bar help gas coalesce into stars. The red outer ring is such s resonance location, where gas is being trapped and new stars ignited.

Image Credit: NASA

A Wide Spectrum Look at M101

It’s one of the last entries in Charles Messier’s famous catalog, but M101 is definitely not one of the least. The galaxy is big—roughly 170,000 light-years across, almost twice the size of our own Milky Way Galaxy. This multiwavelength view is a composite of images recorded by space-based telescopes. Color coded from X-rays to infrared wavelengths (high to low energies), the image data was taken from the Chandra X-ray Observatory (x-rays, purple), the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (ultraviolet, blue), the Hubble Space Telescope (visible light, yellow), and the Spitzer Space Telescope (infrared, red). While the X-ray data shows the multimillion degree gas around M101’s exploded stars and neutron star and black hole binary star systems, the lower energy data shows the stars and dust that define M101’s grand spiral arms. Known as the Pinwheel Galaxy, M101 lies within the boundaries of the northern constellation Ursa Major. It’s about 25 million light-years away.

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

An Intergalactic Carbon Footprint

This false color image taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud in a couple of wavelengths of infrared light. The LMC is a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. The red regions indicate the presence of hot gas. The blue regions show cooler interstellar dust similar to ash from coal or wood-burning fires here on Earth.

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

Spitzer’s Coming Retirement

This video takes a VR look at the Spitzer Space Telescope. Spitzer is one of NASA’s Great Observatories, and it will be ending its mission at the end of January, 2020. This video covers Spitzer’s 16+ year mission, showing how Spitzer observes the universe and some of the limitations and challenges faced by space-based observatories.

Use the widget in the upper left to pan and tilt your point of view.

Video Credit: NASA