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Recent Podcast
A Tour of Eta Carinae
A Tour of Eta Carinae
New Chandra data are helping astronomers better understand how the two stars in Eta Carinae interact with one another through powerful winds blowing off their surfaces. (2014-08-27)
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Animations & Video: Featured Image Tours
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1. Tour of NGC 4178
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only A supermassive black hole with one of the lowest masses ever observed has been spotted in the middle of a galaxy, using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and several other observatories. The black hole is located in the middle of the spiral galaxy NGC 4178, shown in this optical image. The inset shows an X-ray source at the position of the black hole, located at the center of a Chandra image. An analysis of the Chandra data, along with infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope and radio data from the Very Large Array suggests that the black hole has a mass less than about 200,000 times that of the sun. This is lower than the mass of most supermassive black holes. The host galaxy is of a type not expected to harbor supermassive black holes, suggesting that this black hole, while related to its supermassive cousins, may have a different origin.
[Runtime: 1.05]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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Click for high-resolution animation
2. Tour of NGC 4342 & NGC 4291
QuicktimeMPEG Astronomers think that just about every galaxy has a giant black hole at its center. For quite some time, the prevailing wisdom has been that the mass of these supermassive black holes is tied to the size of the tightly packed group of stars around the galaxy's center known as its bulge. Two objects, however, have been discovered that are challenging this idea. NGC 4342 and NGC 4291 are relatively nearby galaxies, which means astronomers can get particularly good views of them. New data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory revealed the presence of massive envelopes of dark matter around each galaxy. The researchers think the growth of the supermassive black holes may, in fact, be tied more closely to the amount and distribution of the dark matter in each galaxy, rather than the mass of stars contained in their bulges as previously believed.
[Runtime: 00.57]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
3. Tour of NGC 922
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only In this holiday season of home cooking and carefully-honed recipes, some astronomers are asking: what is the best mix of ingredients for stars to make the largest number of plump black holes? They are tackling this problem by studying the number of black holes in galaxies with different compositions. One of these galaxies is the ring galaxy NGC 922 that was formed by the collision between two galaxies. This collision triggered the formation of new stars in the shape of a ring. Some of these were massive stars that evolved and collapsed to form black holes. Seven of the sources seen in the Chandra image are thought to contain stellar-mass black holes that are at least ten times more massive than the sun, which places them in the upper range for this class of black hole. By comparing NGC 922 to galaxies with different mixtures of elements, astronomers hope to master the ideal recipe for what it takes to make these large black holes.
[Runtime: 1.09]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
4. Tour of Phoenix Cluster
QuicktimeMPEG Astronomers have found an extraordinary galaxy cluster -- one of the largest objects in the Universe -- that is breaking several important cosmic records. This galaxy cluster has been dubbed the "Phoenix Cluster" because not only is it located in the constellation of the Phoenix, it also possesses some remarkable properties of the mythological creature. While galaxies at the center of most clusters may have been dormant for billions of years, the central galaxy in this cluster seems to have come back to life with a new burst of star formation. The stars are forming at the highest rate ever observed for the middle of a galaxy cluster. Observations with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the NSF's South Pole Telescope and eight other world-class observatories were used to study this object. Taken together, the data from these telescopes also show the Phoenix Cluster is the most powerful producer of X-rays and among the most massive of galaxy clusters. It also has the highest rate of hot gas cooling in the central regions of a cluster ever observed. The new results from the Phoenix Cluster, which is located about 5.7 billion light years from Earth, may force astronomers to rethink how galaxy clusters, and the galaxies that inhabit them, evolve.
[Runtime: 01:21]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
5. Tour of PKS 0745
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only Some of the biggest black holes in the Universe may actually be even bigger than previously thought. This is according to a new survey of 18 of the largest known black holes using data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes. A group of astronomers studied black holes found in the centers of galaxy clusters that are filled with hot gas. They came up with the new estimates of the black hole masses by looking at the amount of X-rays and radio waves they generate. The researchers found that the black holes in the survey may be about ten times more massive than previously thought. This includes at least ten that could weigh between 10 and 40 billion times the mass of the sun, making them "ultramassive" black holes.
[Runtime: 00:52]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
6. Tour of Sagittarius A*
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only Over several years, astronomers have noticed flares in X-ray light from the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory detected these flares during the telescope's periodic observations of the black hole. A new study suggests that these flares may occur when the black hole - known as Sagittarrius A* or Sgr A* for short -- consumes an asteroid at least six miles wide. If an asteroid gets too close to another object like a star or planet, it can be thrown into an orbit headed toward Sgr A*. Once the asteroid passes within about 100 million miles of the black hole, it is torn into pieces by the black hole's tidal forces. Eventually, these fragments are vaporized by friction as they pass through the hot, thin gas flowing onto Sgr A*. This is what produces an X-ray flare. If confirmed, this result could mean that there is a cloud around Sgr A* containing trillions of asteroids and comets. This would be an exciting development for the many scientists who are fascinated by the Milky Way's giant black hole and the environment around it.
[Runtime: 01:17]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
7. Tour of SN 2010jl
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only Why are some supernovas much more powerful than others? Astronomers are still trying to figure that out, but one new discovery may help answer the question. On November 3, 2010, a supernova was discovered in a galaxy located about 160 million light years from Earth. When astronomers used the Chandra X-ray Observatory to look at it, they found some very interesting clues. The Chandra data showed evidence that the shock wave formed by the supernova was, in fact, breaking through a cocoon of gas. This cocoon was probably formed when the star expelled its outer layers before finally collapsing on itself and exploding as a supernova. By observing this supernova just weeks after the initial explosion, scientists were able to learn more about this supernova and potentially others as they try to better understand how some stars die.
[Runtime: 01:01]
(X-ray: NASA/CXC/Royal Military College of Canada/P.Chandra et al); Optical: NASA/STScI)

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8. A Tour of GRS 1915+105
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only GRS 1915+105, or GRS 1915 for short, is a special system. Not only does it contain a black hole some 14 times more massive than the Sun in orbit with a companion star, it also has a heartbeat. Or, more exactly, it gives off X-ray pulses that resemble the pattern of a human heart, though on a much slower scale. By monitoring this system with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer, astronomers were able to pick out a spike of X-rays every 50 seconds or so. Researchers have determined that this heartbeat is due to the ebb and flow of material as it circles the black hole. This result gives scientists more insight into how black holes regulate their intake and control their growth.
[Runtime: 0.55]
(NASA/CXC/Harvard/J.Neilsen et al & A.Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

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9. Tour of Abell 2052
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only The galaxy cluster Abell 2052 is found some 480 million light years from Earth. At the center of Abell 2052 is a giant elliptical galaxy, and within that is a supermassive black hole. X-ray data from Chandra show the hot gas that fills the space within the cluster. Pulling away, we see a huge spiral structure around this central elliptical galaxy. This spiral, which is over one million light years across, was created when a smaller spiral smashed into Abell 2052. This caused the hot gas in the cluster to slosh back and forth, similar to how wine moves when a glass is tugged from side to side. This sloshing turns out to be very important. First, it helps redistribute the hot gas, which, in turn, affects the number of new stars being formed in the central galaxy. The sloshing also spreads elements like oxygen and iron throughout the cluster, enriching future generations of stars and planets with the building blocks necessary for life as we know it.
[Runtime: 01:14]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
10. Tour of Abell 2744
QuicktimeMPEG Audio Only One of the most complicated and dramatic collisions ever seen between galaxy clusters is captured in this new composite image. This collision site, known officially as Abell 2744, has been dubbed "Pandora's Cluster" because of the wide variety of the different structures found here. Data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory show gas with temperatures of millions of degrees. A map based on data from Hubble and two ground-based optical telescopes reveals the location of matter, most of which is the mysterious material known as dark matter. Working together, these telescopes show that Pandora's cluster is actually the result of the collision of at least four separate galaxy clusters, each coming from a different direction. Scientists think this cosmic smash-up has taken place over a span of some 350 million years.
[Runtime: 1.11]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images: