Chandra Weighs Most Massive Galaxy Cluster in Distant Universe

il Gioiello Cluster

A newly discovered galaxy cluster is the most massive one ever detected with an age of 800 million years or younger. Using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have accurately determined the mass and other properties of this cluster, as described in our latest press release. This is an important step in understanding how galaxy clusters, the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity, have evolved over time.

Galactic Get-Together has Impressive Light Display

NGC 2207 and IC 2163

At this time of year, there are lots of gatherings often decorated with festive lights. When galaxies get together, there is the chance of a spectacular light show as is the case with NGC 2207 and IC 2163

Located about 130 million light years from Earth, in the constellation of Canis Major, this pair of spiral galaxies has been caught in a grazing encounter. NGC 2207 and IC 2163 have hosted three supernova explosions in the past 15 years and have produced one of the most bountiful collections of super bright X-ray lights known. These special objects - known as "ultraluminous X-ray sources" (ULXs) - have been found using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

An "Hour of Code" with Color, Images, and Astronomy

For many, it might be hard to imagine living a life without computers and technology. In fact, it’s become so much a part of our society that we may not realize how dependent we are on technology.

But who does the work that enables these computers to fit into our daily lives? Who gets to learn how to code? A project called “Hour of Code” as well as Computer Science Education Week is seeking to address that question by increasing access to coding opportunities for elementary, middle and high school students, and particularly girls and underrepresented students of color.

Here at the Chandra X-ray Center we strongly believe in this goal as well. We’ve joined forces with other members of the astronomical community, including an astronomer at the American Astronomical Society, others at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, as well as partners at Google's CS First and Pencil Code, to create a project for the “Hour of Code” that combines color, astronomy, and coding:

A Beautiful Embodiment of the Chandra Archive

The people who work at the Chandra X-ray Center truly have many talents. Take, for example, Sherry Winkelman who works on the Chandra Data Archive, which houses the vast amounts of Chandra observations taken over the lifetime of the mission.

Just recently, Sherry’s quilt called "Interchange," an abstraction of the Chandra archive, was accepted for the 2015 Smithsonian Community Committee art exhibition, Artists at Work show. The quilt will be on exhibit in the Ripley Center in Washington, D.C. from February 4 through May 1, 2015.

Tech10: Technology & Astronomy

Last week, Tech Collective, Rhode Island’s industry association for Information Technology and Bioscience, announced ten Rhode Island IT practitioners, digital media designers, and entrepreneurs as its 2014 Tech10 Award recipients. Our own Kimberly Arcand, a Rhode Island native, was recognized for work as the Visualization Lead for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. Kim shared her thoughts on some important topics in science communication, which we include below.


The “STEM” fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics seem inextricably linked, particularly in the field of space science. We can work from wherever there’s a connected computer – being able to access data from a spacecraft, orbiting a third of the way to the Moon, because of the telecommunications system/network and software that connects the observatory to the Deep Space Network and down through to – eventually - my laptop. My particular piece in this is directing the translation of the data and information into forms that others can use. That process happens in many ways, whether through the more literal form of processing binary data into visual representations of a cosmic object, or tweeting about a recent science result.

Supernova Shock Waves, Neutron Stars, and Lobsters

MSH 11-62 and G327.1-1.1*

A supernova that signals the death of a massive star sends titanic shock waves rumbling through interstellar space. An ultra-dense neutron star is usually left behind, which is far from dead, as it spews out a blizzard of high-energy particles. Two new images from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory provide fascinating views - including an enigmatic lobster-like feature - of the complex aftermath of a supernova.

Reaching New Heights For Women & X-ray Astronomy

PART 2: #sts93 (PART 1)

Preparation for Launch

The size and weight distribution of the Chandra X-ray Observatory and its booster (called the Inertial Upper Stage, or IUS) posed extra risks for the crew of STS-93. Space Shuttle Columbia was the heaviest shuttle and the bulk of the weight from the two components in the payload bay – the heaviest ever to fly -- was located in the aft of the Shuttle. This meant it could be extremely dangerous – or fatal -- if for some reason, they had to return to Earth with Chandra and IUS in the payload bay.

A Lighthouse at the Heart of the Milky Way: Hunting Cosmic Neutrinos

 Andrea Peterson
Andrea Peterson

We are pleased to welcome Andrea Peterson as a guest blogger today. Andrea is a co-author of a paper reporting that the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy may be a source of highly energetic neutrinos, as explained in our latest press release. Andrea recently completed her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied particle phenomenology. She is now a postdoctoral researcher at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. She was born and raised in Minnesota, and received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University. She hopes to live somewhere warm someday.

Neutrinos are tiny particles that zoom through the universe at nearly the speed of light. They interact very rarely, so most of the time they pass right through you, me, or any object they encounter. Their ghost-like nature can be a boon for astronomers: they travel from their sources without getting absorbed or deflected. We can use neutrinos to get a clear picture of the very distant universe.

You may have noticed a problem, though. If they don’t interact very often, how can we catch them here on Earth? They have to interact with our detector to be seen!

The solution is size. The bigger the detector, the more stuff there is for the neutrinos to bump into, increasing the chances of detection. The IceCube Neutrino Observatory, located at the South Pole, uses a cubic kilometer of ice to trap neutrinos. In three years, this giant detector has collected 36 extremely energetic neutrinos that are likely to have come from astrophysical sources.


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