Stellar Effervescence on Display


This composite image shows the superbubble DEM L50 (a.k.a. N186) located in the Large Magellanic Cloud about 160,000 light years from Earth. Superbubbles are found in regions where massive stars have formed in the last few million years. The massive stars produce intense radiation, expel matter at high speeds, and race through their evolution to explode as supernovas . The winds and supernova shock waves carve out huge cavities called superbubbles in the surrounding gas.

"All the Data that FITS"

This week marks a milestone in the openFITS collection as we've nearly doubled the amount of data offered up for curious minds to explore and create their own images. We now offer a collection of 17 data sets covering supernova remnants, galaxies, neutron stars, pulsars, and the supermassive black hole at the center of our very own galaxy, the Milky Way. Additionally, we've updated the openFITS overview and tutorials to reflect changes in the newest version of GIMP (v2.8), our choice of image processing platform for this project. GIMP v2.8 is now available as a native application on Mac OS X and offers some exciting new features as well as laying the groundwork for very exciting developments to come.


Astro-ganza in Long Beach

This week, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) is holding its 221st meeting in Long Beach, CA. These meetings are a chance for astronomers to get together and share some of their latest findings. Some of these are even featured in press releases and press conferences including the newest results from Chandra. You'll find scientists from government agencies like NASA and researchers from universities. You see aspiring graduate students mixing with award-winning astronomers and everyone in between.


A Cosmic Corkscrew

It's a pleasure to welcome Martin Durant, of the University of Toronto, for a guest blog article giving more background about his work on the striking variations discovered in the Vela Pulsar.

Pulsars, the remnants of exploded massive stars, are fascinating objects. They have more mass than the sun, squeezed into a ball the size of a city, making them denser than the nucleus of an atom. Add to this mixture immense magnetic fields and rapid rotation, and you have the perfect mix of high energy particles and fundamental forces – nuclear, electromagnetic and gravitational – to put the extreme limits of physical models to the test. Each pulsar, when studied in sufficient detail, appears to be unique. To understand the differences between these exotic objects, we must use all available information and collect data across the spectrum, from radio to gamma rays.

Never give up and trust your intuition

We are very pleased to welcome a guest blogger, Julie Hlavacek-Larrondo, who led the work described in our latest press release. Julie was raised in Montreal, Canada, and in 2007 completed a Bachelor’s degree in physics at the University of Montreal. Julie then obtained a Master’s degree in astrophysics. In 2012, she completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge. She is currently an Einstein Fellow at Stanford University.

It was during my Master degree at the University of Montreal that I realized just how fascinating black holes are.

Schematic of a Black Hole

I remember stumbling upon a press release from Chandra in 2007. The Chandra space telescope revealed an image of a jet, powered by a supermassive black hole, blasting through its neighboring galaxy. What's so fascinating? Supermassive black holes are tiny objects, about a billion times smaller than the galaxy it resides in, yet, it can create jets that extend well beyond the size of the galaxy! How can something so small be so powerful?

From Super to Ultra: Just How Big Can Black Holes Get?

PKS 0745

The black hole at the center of this galaxy is part of a survey of 18 of the biggest black holes in the universe. This large elliptical galaxy is in the center of the galaxy cluster PKS 0745-19, which is located about 1.3 billion light years from Earth. X-ray data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory are shown in purple and optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope are in yellow.

Chandra in 2012: A Teenager in Space

Great Observatories

In July of 2012, Chandra completed its 13th year of operation, making it a teenager. That is young in human terms, but it is getting up there for an automobile, and could be considered a "senior citizen" for a spacecraft of Chandra's complexity. How many computers do you have that are 13 years old? Chandra's magnificent sister NASA flagship observatory, Hubble, is older, at 22, but astronauts have paid 4 house calls to make major upgrades over the years.

Revealing Hidden Black Holes

NGC 3627

The spiral galaxy NGC 3627 is located about 30 million light years from Earth. This composite image includes X-ray data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue), infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope (red), and optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Very Large Telescope (yellow). The inset shows the central region, which contains a bright X-ray source that is likely powered by material falling onto a supermassive black hole.


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