In my last entry I described that particles coming out of the Sun -- especially what we call "soft" protons -- can damage the CCDs that we use on-board Chandra to detect X-rays. Because of this, we use a complicated network of on-board, space-based and ground-based monitors to ensure that the ACIS detector doesn't see too many of these protons. When the Sun was active, we often shut down the detector so that no damage would occur. Due to the solar cycle hitting a down phase, called "solar minimum," we haven't had to shutdown the detectors since 2006.
A beautiful new image of two colliding galaxies has been released by NASA's Great Observatories. The Antennae galaxies, located about 62 million light years from Earth, are shown in this composite image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue), the Hubble Space Telescope (gold and brown), and the Spitzer Space Telescope (red). The Antennae galaxies take their name from the long antenna-like "arms," seen in wide-angle views of the system. These features were produced by tidal forces generated in the collision.
The 2010 Smithsonian Folklife Festival wrapped up earlier this month on the National Mall in Washington, DC. This year, the Festival included the themes of the Smithsonian’s new Strategic Plan . Of course, Chandra and its role at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory fit squarely into the goals of the “Mysteries of the Universe” theme. Therefore, it was very exciting for us to have a presence during this giant event.
The openFITS project represents a step towards removing some of the mystery surrounding image processing of the X-ray data from the Chandra Observatory. As the Science Imager for Chandra, I'm often asked if astronomical objects appear in optical images as they would if we could somehow fly to these objects and view them with our own eyes. Of course, this is usually asked in relation to optical images, such as those from Hubble, because human eyes cannot actually see X-rays!
Ok, I know this is not an original title for a blog about the sun and certainly not for the new solar cycle. Hey, I am an astronomer, not a writer. Like most science, my work on the Sun is partially something I fell into. My job on the Chandra science team is Monitoring and Trends Scientist. This means that it is my job to watch the spacecraft and make sure nothing is going to go wrong. To be honest, there are a whole bunch of engineers who have the same job for a specific part of the spacecraft and a chief engineer who monitors the whole spacecraft.
Combined data from Chandra (red, green, and blue) as well as optical light (light blue) and hydrogen emission (gold) reveals a “microquasar” in the galaxy NGC 7793. This system contains a stellar-mass black hole that is being fed by a companion star, shown in X-rays in the upper inset. Material falling onto the black hole is blowing outward via two powerful jets that plow into the surrounding gas and heat it. The lower inset shows the nebula that is being illuminated by the output from these jets.
Evidence for a recoiling black hole has been found using data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, XMM-Newton, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), and several ground-based telescopes. A new paper reports that this black hole kickback was caused either by a slingshot effect produced in a triple black hole system, or from the effects of gravitational waves produced after two supermassive black holes merged a few million years earlier.
While most of the world was focused on that little soccer tournament in South Africa, astrophysicists were involved with their own form of competition last week. As they do every year, experts from around the globe gathered to conduct the Chandra Peer Review process. This is the way that astronomers figure out what targets Chandra will observe over the course of the next year. Most major telescopes – such as Hubble and Spitzer -- have a similar process. And as they say about democracy, it's not a perfect system but it’s better than just about any other.
Jonathan Taylor, a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at De Montfort University in the UK, wrote a poem about the cosmic 'ghost' lurking around a distant supermassive black hole. His poem also appears in the literary magazine Acumen, issue 67, http://www.acumen-poetry.co.uk/. Jonathan is not only a poet, but a memoirist and novelist.
NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has found a cosmic ‘ghost’ lurking around a distant supermassive black hole ....
(Chandra X-Ray Observatory, 28 May 2009)
Telescoped, the universe is a vast memory,
an over-long school-lesson in cosmic history,
background radiation droning on and on
from 300,000 years after the big bang,
remembering anything big enough (not us);
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