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Milky Way Galaxy
X-ray Astronomy Field Guide
Milky Way Galaxy
Questions and Answers
Milky Way Galaxy
Chandra Images
Milky Way Galaxy
Animations & Video: The Milky Way
Page 123
Click for high-resolution animation
1. Tour of Sagittarius A*
QuicktimeMPEG One of the biggest mysteries in astrophysics today is figuring out where mysterious particles called neutrinos come from. Neutrinos are tiny particles that carry no charge and interact very weakly with electrons and protons. Unlike light or charged particles, neutrinos can emerge from deep within their sources and travel across the universe without being absorbed by intervening matter or, in the case of charged particles, deflected by magnetic fields.

The Earth is constantly bombarded with neutrinos from the sun. However, neutrinos from beyond the solar system can be millions or billions of times more energetic. Scientists have long been searching for the origin of these very energetic neutrinos.

Now scientists have a new clue in their hunt for the source of neutrinos. By analyzing data from three X-ray telescopes, including Chandra, researchers have found a connection between flares generated by the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way and the arrival of high-energy neutrinos at a detector under the South Pole. In fact, the facility in Antarctica, called the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, saw one of these high-energy neutrinos less than three hours after Chandra detected the largest flare ever from the Milky Way's supermassive black hole. The Swift and NuSTAR X-ray telescopes also recorded flares that were later tied to IceCube neutrino detections.

While it's too early to say if the Milky Way's black hole is definitively generating high-energy neutrinos, the latest results are a promising lead for scientists to follow.
[Runtime: 01:52]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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2. Tour of Sagittarius A*
QuicktimeMPEG Jets of high-energy particles are found throughout the Universe on large and small scales. They are produced by young stars and by giant black holes. Jets play important roles in transporting energy away from the central object and, on a galactic scale, in regulating the rate of formation of new stars.

Because of that, astronomers have been searching for decades for a jet from the Milky Way's black hole known as Sagittarius A*. Over the years, there have been several reports of hints of a jet from Sgr A*, but none was conclusive. A new study involving data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Very Large Array, however, has provided the best case yet for a jet from our Galaxy's supermassive black hole.

One piece of evidence is a straight line of X-rays that points to Sgr A*. Another is the discovery of a shock front - akin to a sonic boom - seen in radio data, where the jet appears to be striking a cloud of gas. By combining these clues with other information, astronomers think they have the strongest evidence to date for a jet blasting out of Sgr A*. The likely discovery of a jet from Sgr A* helps astronomers learn more about the giant black hole, including how it is spinning.
[Runtime: 01:32]
(NASA/CXC/April Jubett)

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3. Beyond the Horizon
QuicktimeMPEG

For a long time people believed that the Earth was flat and that if you sailed too far you'd fall over the edge! It seems funny they could have thought that, because now we're lucky enough to have pictures of our entire planet and we can see its shape (take a look at image 2). But it took some pretty impressive technology to get these pictures, which wasn't available to our ancient ancestors. Did you know you have to travel about 20,000 kilometres from Earth to be able to see the entire planet?

Now imagine how far into space you'd have to travel to fit all the 300 billion stars of the Milky Way (our Galaxy) into one shot! This is way beyond our abilities at the moment, but we can photograph small sections of the Galaxy. This picture from the Chandra X-ray Observatory shows the very centre of the Milky Way. This is the most chaotic and dangerous part of the Galaxy, and home to a supermassive black hole.

Anything that gets too close to a black hole is pulled into it with such a strong force that it has no chance of escape. The boundary that marks the point of no return is called the event horizon. Past this not even light will return: this monster will pull it in forever. The blue haze in this picture includes piping-hot gas floating perilously close to the event horizon of our Galaxy's supermassive black hole. But astronomers have found that just a tiny amount of this gas will be gobbled up by the black hole, and the rest will be "spat out" before it gets too close.


[Runtime: 02:03]
(NASA/CXC/April Jubett)

Related Chandra Images:

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4. Learn About the Milky Way
QuicktimeMPEG The word galaxy comes from the Greek word meaning "milky circle" or the more familiar Milky Way.
The white band of light across the night sky that we call the Milky Way was poetically described long before Galileo, but with his small telescope, what he discovered was a multitude of individual stars, so numerous as almost to surpass belief.
Today we know that the Milky Way is our home galaxy, a vast rotating spiral of gas, dust and hundreds of billions of stars.
The sun and its planetary system formed in the outer reaches of the Milky Way about 4.5 billion years ago.
See the Milky Way through Chandra's eyes.
[Runtime: 1.31]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Click for high-resolution animation
5. Tour of Sagittarius A*
QuicktimeMPEG 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)

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6. Animation of a Black Hole's Outburst
QuicktimeMPEG This animation shows how high-energy particles and X-ray flares are produced when matter falls onto the accretion disk around a supermassive black hole. Astronomers believe such an event occurred to produce the light echo seen in the latest Chandra results.
[Runtime: 0.10]
(NASA/CXC/D.Berry)

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7. Illustrations of Light Echo
QuicktimeMPEG This sequence of illustrations shows how an outburst from Sgr A* -- produced when material falls into the black hole -- generates a light echo. The faint, star-like object in the center represents the typical, quiet behavior, when the black hole does not have much material to consume. When the black hole's feeding rate increases dramatically, the material around Sgr A* brightens. Although the black hole outburst stops, the light from the outburst continues to travel outwards and then reflects, or echoes, off three clouds of gas in its path.
[Runtime: 0.13]
(NASA/CXC/M.Weiss)

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8. Tour of Sagittarius A*
QuicktimeMPEG Astronomers have long known that the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy is a particularly poor eater. The fuel for this black hole, known as Sagittarius A* (or Sgr A* for short), comes from powerful winds blown off nearby stars. Scientists have previously calculated that Sgr A* should consume about one percent of the fuel carried in the winds. However, it now appears that Sgr A* consumes much less than even that. It only ingests about one percent of that one percent. Why does it consume so little? A theoretical model based on these new deep data seen in this Chandra image may provide the answer. It turns out that there is an inner and outer region around the black hole. Pressure flowing outward causes nearly all of the gas to move away from the black hole. This in turn starves the black hole of much of its fuel, and this is why astronomers have seen so little activity from this, our closest supermassive black hole.
[Runtime: 1.08]
(NASA/CXC/MIT/F.K. Baganoff et al.)

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9. Tour of Multiwavelength Galactic Center
QuicktimeMPEG This never-before-seen view of the turbulent heart of our Milky Way combines a near-infrared view from Hubble, an infrared image from Spitzer, and X-ray data from Chandra. The composite image features the spectacle of galactic evolution: from vibrant regions of star birth to young and old stellar populations and even to the eerie remains of stellar death called black holes. All of this occurs against a fiery backdrop in the crowded, hostile environment of the galaxy's core, the center of which is ruled by a supermassive black hole. A diffuse haze of X-ray light from hot gas permeates the entire field. This gas has been heated to millions of degrees by outflows from the supermassive black hole as well as by winds from massive stars and stellar explosions.
[Runtime: 0.53]
(X-ray: NASA/CXC/UMass/D. Wang et al.; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI/D.Wang et al.; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSC/S.Stolovy)

Related Chandra Images:

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10. Tour of Galactic Center
QuicktimeMPEG This image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory reveals a wealth of exotic objects and high-energy features at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. In this new and deep image from Chandra, red represents lower-energy X-rays, green shows the medium range, and blue indicates the higher-energy X-rays Chandra can detect. The hundreds of small dots show emission from material around black holes and other dense stellar objects like neutron stars. A supermassive black hole -- some four million times more massive than the Sun -- resides within the bright region to the right of center. The diffuse X-ray light comes from gas heated to millions of degrees by outflows from the supermassive black hole, winds from giant stars, and stellar explosions.
[Runtime: 0.50]
(Credit: NASA/CXC/UMass/D. Wang et al.)

Related Chandra Images:

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