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  • richardmitnick 9:23 am on September 11, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Chandra: “Puppis A: An X-ray Tapestry” 

    NASA Chandra

    Puppis A is a supernova remnant located about 7,000 light years from Earth. This new image includes data from Chandra and XMM-Newton and is the most complete and detailed X-ray view of Puppis A to date. The combined dataset reveals a delicate tapestry of X-ray light left behind by the supernova explosion.

    ESA XMM Newton
    ESA/XMM-Newton

    puppis A
    Credit X-ray: NASA/CXC/IAFE/G.Dubner et al & ESA/XMM-Newton
    Release Date September 10, 2014

    The destructive results of a powerful supernova explosion reveal themselves in a delicate tapestry of X-ray light, as seen in this image from NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton.

    The image shows the remains of a supernova that would have been witnessed on Earth about 3,700 years ago. The remnant is called Puppis A, and is around 7,000 light years away and about 10 light years across. This image provides the most complete and detailed X-ray view of Puppis A ever obtained, made by combining a mosaic of different Chandra and XMM-Newton observations. Low-energy X-rays are shown in red, medium-energy X-rays are in green and high energy X-rays are colored blue.

    These observations act as a probe of the gas surrounding Puppis A, known as the interstellar medium. The complex appearance of the remnant shows that Puppis A is expanding into an interstellar medium that probably has a knotty structure.

    Supernova explosions forge the heavy elements that can provide the raw material from which future generations of stars and planets will form. Studying how supernova remnants expand into the galaxy and interact with other material provides critical clues into our own origins.

    A paper describing these results was published in the July 2013 issue of Astronomy and Astrophysics and is available online. The first author is Gloria Dubner from the Instituto de Astronomía y Física del Espacio in Buenos Aires in Argentina.

    See the full article here.

    NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra’s science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

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  • richardmitnick 1:53 pm on June 24, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESA: “Puzzling X-rays point to dark matter” 

    ESASpaceForEuropeBanner
    European Space Agency

    24 June 2014
    Markus Bauer
    ESA Science and Robotic Exploration Communication Officer
    Tel: +31 71 565 6799
    Mob: +31 61 594 3 954
    Email: markus.bauer@esa.int

    Esra Bulbul
    Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
    Cambridge, MA, USA
    Phone: +1-617-496-7565
    Email: ebulbul@cfa.harvard.edu

    Norbert Schartel
    XMM-Newton Project Scientist
    Tel: +34 91 8131 184
    Email: Norbert.Schartel@sciops.esa.int

    Astronomers using ESA and NASA high-energy observatories have discovered a tantalising clue that hints at an elusive ingredient of our Universe: dark matter.

    Although thought to be invisible, neither emitting nor absorbing light, dark matter can be detected through its gravitational influence on the movements and appearance of other objects in the Universe, such as stars or galaxies.

    Based on this indirect evidence, astronomers believe that dark matter is the dominant type of matter in the Universe – yet it remains obscure.

    Now a hint may have been found by studying galaxy clusters, the largest cosmic assemblies of matter bound together by gravity.

    Galaxy clusters not only contain hundreds of galaxies, but also a huge amount of hot gas filling the space between them.

    However, measuring the gravitational influence of such clusters shows that the galaxies and gas make up only about a fifth of the total mass – the rest is thought to be dark matter.

    The gas is mainly hydrogen and, at over 10 million degrees celsius, is hot enough to emit X-rays. Traces of other elements contribute additional X-ray ‘lines’ at specific wavelengths.

    Examining observations by ESA’s XMM-Newton and NASA’s Chandra spaceborne telescopes of these characteristic lines in 73 galaxy clusters, astronomers stumbled on an intriguing faint line at a wavelength where none had been seen before.

    ESA XMM Newton
    ESA/XMM-Newton

    NASA Chandra Telescope
    NASA/Chandra

    pc1
    Mysterious signal in the Perseus galaxy cluster

    “If this strange signal had been caused by a known element present in the gas, it should have left other signals in the X-ray light at other well-known wavelengths, but none of these were recorded,” says Dr Esra Bulbul from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, lead author of the paper discussing the results.

    “So we had to look for an explanation beyond the realm of known, ordinary matter.”

    The astronomers suggest that the emission may be created by the decay of an exotic type of subatomic particle known as a ‘sterile neutrino’, which is predicted but not yet detected.

    Ordinary neutrinos are very low-mass particles that interact only rarely with matter via the so-called weak nuclear force as well as via gravity. Sterile neutrinos are thought to interact with ordinary matter through gravity alone, making them a possible candidate as dark matter.

    “If the interpretation of our new observations is correct, at least part of the dark matter in galaxy clusters could consist of sterile neutrinos,” says Dr Bulbul.

    The surveyed galaxy clusters lie at a wide range of distances, from more than a hundred million light-years to a few billion light-years away. The mysterious, faint signal was found by combining multiple observations of the clusters, as well as in an individual image of the Perseus cluster, a massive structure in our cosmic neighbourhood.

    pc
    An accumulation of 270 hours of Chandra observations of the central regions of the Perseus galaxy cluster reveals evidence of the turmoil that has wracked the cluster for hundreds of millions of years. One of the most massive objects in the universe, the cluster contains thousands of galaxies immersed in a vast cloud of multimillion degree gas with the mass equivalent of trillions of suns. Enormous bright loops, ripples, and jet-like streaks are apparent in the image. The dark blue filaments in the center are likely due to a galaxy that has been torn apart and is falling into NGC 1275, a.k.a. Perseus A, the giant galaxy that lies at the center of the cluster.
    1 December 2005

    The implications of this discovery may be far-reaching, but the researchers are being cautious. Further observations with XMM-Newton, Chandra and other high-energy telescopes of more clusters are needed before the connection to dark matter can be confirmed.

    “The discovery of these curious X-rays was possible thanks to the large XMM-Newton archive, and to the observatory’s ability to collect lots of X-rays at different wavelengths, leading to this previously undiscovered line,” comments Norbert Schartel, ESA’s XMM-Newton Project Scientist.

    “It would be extremely exciting to confirm that XMM-Newton helped us find the first direct sign of dark matter.

    “We aren’t quite there yet, but we’re certainly going to learn a lot about the content of our bizarre Universe while getting there.”

    See the full article here.

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 12:30 pm on June 2, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESA: “Pulsar encased in supernova bubble” 

    ESASpaceForEuropeBanner
    European Space Agency

    02/06/2014
    No Writer Credit

    Massive stars end their lives with a bang: exploding as spectacular supernovas, they release huge amounts of mass and energy into space. These explosions sweep up any surrounding material, creating bubble remnants that expand into interstellar space. At the heart of bubbles like these are small, dense neutron stars or black holes, the remains of what once shone brightly as a star.

    star field

    Since supernova-carved bubbles shine for only a few tens of thousands of years before dissolving, it is rare to come across neutron stars or black holes that are still enclosed within their expanding shell. This image captures such an unusual scene, featuring both a strongly magnetised, rotating neutron star – known as a pulsar – and its cosmic cloak, the remains of the explosion that generated it.

    This pulsar, named SXP 1062, lies in the outskirts of the Small Magellanic Cloud, one of the satellite galaxies of our Milky Way galaxy. It is an object known as an X-ray pulsar: it hungrily gobbles up material from a nearby companion star and burps off X-rays as it does so. In the future, this scene may become even more dramatic, as SXP 1062 has a massive companion star that has not yet exploded as a supernova.

    smc
    The two-color image shows an overview of the full Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) and was composed from two images from the Digitized Sky Survey 2. The field of view is slightly larger than 3.5 × 3.6 degrees. N66 with the open star cluster NGC 346 is the largest of the star-forming regions seen below the center of the SMC.
    http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/html/heic0514c.html

    Most pulsars whirl around incredibly quickly, spinning many times per second. However, by exploring the expanding bubble around this pulsar and estimating its age, astronomers have noticed something intriguing: SXP 1062 seems to be rotating far too slowly for its age. It is actually one of the slowest pulsars known.

    While the cause of this weird sluggishness is still a mystery, one explanation may be that the pulsar has an unusually strong magnetic field, which would slow the rotation.

    The diffuse blue glow at the centre of the bubble in this image represents X-ray emission from both the pulsar and the hot gas that fills the expanding bubble. The other fuzzy blue objects visible in the background are extragalactic X-ray sources.

    This image combines X-ray data from ESA’s XMM-Newton (shown in blue) with optical observations from the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The optical data were obtained using two special filters that reveal the glow of oxygen (shown in green) and hydrogen (shown in red). The size of the image is equivalent to a distance of 457 light-years on a side.

    ESA XMM Newton
    ESA/XMM-Newton

    NOAO Cerro Tolo
    NOAO/CTIO

    This image was first published on ESA’s Science and Technology website in 2011. It is based on data from the paper Discovery of a Be/X-ray pulsar binary and associated supernova remnant in the Wing of the Small Magellanic Cloud by V. Hénault-Brunet, et al. 2012.

    See the full article here.

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 12:50 pm on April 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESA: “Unique pair of hidden black holes discovered by XMM-Newton” 

    ESASpaceForEuropeBanner
    European Space Agency

    22 April 2014
    Contacts

    Fukun Liu
    Department of Astronomy
    Peking University
    Beijing, China
    Email: fkliupku.edu.cn
    Phone: +86-10-62751266

    Stefanie Komossa
    Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie
    Bonn, Germany
    Email: skomossampifr-bonn.mpg.de
    Phone: +49-228-525-431

    Norbert Schartel
    ESA XMM-Newton Project Scientist
    Directorate of Science and Robotic Exploration
    European Space Agency
    Email: Norbert.Schartelesa.int
    Phone: +34-91-8131-184

    A pair of supermassive black holes in orbit around one another have been spotted by XMM-Newton. This is the first time such a pair have been seen in an ordinary galaxy. They were discovered because they ripped apart a star when the space observatory happened to be looking in their direction.

    ESA XMM Newton
    ESA XMM-Newton

    Most massive galaxies in the Universe are thought to harbour at least one supermassive black hole at their centre. Two supermassive black holes are the smoking gun that the galaxy has merged with another. Thus, finding binary supermassive black holes can tell astronomers about how galaxies evolved into their present-day shapes and sizes.

    2bh
    Artist’s impression of a binary supermassive black hole system. Credit: ESA – C. Carreau

    To date, only a few candidates for close binary supermassive black holes have been found. All are in active galaxies where they are constantly ripping gas clouds apart, in the prelude to crushing them out of existence.

    In the process of destruction, the gas is heated so much that it shines at many wavelengths, including X-rays. This gives the galaxy an unusually bright centre, and leads to it being called active. The new discovery, reported by Fukun Liu, Peking University, Beijing, China, and colleagues, is important because it is the first to be found in a galaxy that is not active.

    “There might be a whole population of quiescent galaxies that host binary black holes in their centres,” says co-author Stefanie Komossa, Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Bonn, Germany. But finding them is a difficult task because in quiescent galaxies, there are no gas clouds feeding the black holes, and so the cores of these galaxies are truly dark.

    The only hope that the astronomers have is to be looking in the right direction at the moment one of the black holes goes to work, and rips a star to pieces. Such an occurrence is called a ‘tidal disruption event‘. As the star is pulled apart by the gravity of the black hole, it gives out a flare of X-rays.

    In an active galaxy, the black hole is continuously fed by gas clouds. In a quiescent galaxy, the black hole is fed by tidal disruption events that occur sporadically and are impossible to predict. So, to increase the chances of catching such an event, researchers use ESA’s X-ray observatory, XMM-Newton, in a novel way.

    scans
    XMM-Newton slew scans (2001-2010). Credit: ESA/ A. Read (University of Leicester)

    Usually, the observatory collects data from designated targets, one at a time. Once it completes an observation, it slews to the next. The trick is that during this movement, XMM-Newton keeps the instruments turned on and recording. Effectively this surveys the sky in a random pattern, producing data that can be analysed for unknown or unexpected sources of X-rays.

    On 10 June 2010, a tidal disruption event was spotted by XMM-Newton in galaxy SDSS J120136.02+300305.5. Komossa and colleagues were scanning the data for such events and scheduled follow-up observations just days later with XMM-Newton and NASA’s Swift satellite.

    The galaxy was still spilling X-rays into space. It looked exactly like a tidal disruption event caused by a supermassive black hole but as they tracked the slowly fading emission day after day something strange happened.

    The X-rays fell below detectable levels between days 27 and 48 after the discovery. Then they re-appeared and continued to follow a more expected fading rate, as if nothing had happened.

    Now, thanks to Fukun Liu, the behaviour can be explained. “This is exactly what you would expect from a pair of supermassive black holes orbiting one another,” says Liu.

    Liu had been working on models of black hole binary systems that predicted a sudden plunge to darkness and then the recovery because the gravity of one of the black holes disrupted the flow of gas onto the other, temporarily depriving it of fuel to fire the X-ray flare. He found that two possible configurations were possible to reproduce the observations of J120136.

    In the first, the primary black hole contained 10 million solar masses and was orbited by a black hole of about a million solar masses in an elliptical orbit. In the second solution, the primary black hole was about a million solar masses and in a circular orbit.

    In both cases, the separation between the black holes was relatively small: 0.6 milliparsecs, or about 2 thousandths of a light year. This is about the width of our Solar System.

    Being this close, the fate of this newly discovered black hole pair is sealed. They will radiate their orbital energy away, gradually spiralling together, until in about two million years time they will merge into a single black hole.

    Now that astronomers have found this first candidate for a binary black hole in a quiescent galaxy, the search is inevitably on for more. XMM-Newton will continue its slew survey. This detection will also spur interest in a network of telescopes that search the whole sky for tidal disruption events.

    “Once we have detected thousands of tidal disruption events, we can begin to extract reliable statistics about the rate at which galaxies merge,” says Komossa.

    There is another hope for the future as well. When binary black holes merge, they are predicted to release a massive burst of energy into the Universe but not mostly in X-rays. “The final merger is expected to be the strongest source of gravitational waves in the Universe,” says Liu.

    Gravitational waves are ripples in the space-time continuum. Astronomers around the world are currently building a new type of observatory to detect these ripples. ESA are also involved in opening this new window on the Universe. In 2015, ESA will launch LISA Pathfinder, which will test the necessary technology for building a space-based gravitational wave detector that must be placed in space. The search for elusive gravitational waves is also the theme for one of ESA’s next large science missions, the L3 mission in the Cosmic Vision programme.

    ESA LISA Pathfinder
    ESA LISA Pathfinder

    In the meantime, XMM-Newton will continue to look out for the tidal disruption events that betray the presence of binary supermassive black holes candidates.

    “The innovative use of XMM-Newton’s slew observations made the detection of this binary supermassive black hole system possible,” says Norbert Schartel, ESA’s XMM-Newton Project Scientist. “This demonstrates the important role that long-lasting space observatories have in detecting rare events that can potentially open new areas in astronomy.”

    The results described in this article are reported in A milli-parsec supermassive black hole binary candidate in the galaxy SDSS J120136.02+300305.5, by F.K. Liu, Shuo Li, and S. Komossa, published in the May 10 issue of The Astrophysical Journal, 2014, Volume 786; doi:10.1088/0004-637X/786/2/103

    See the full article here.

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 5:10 am on April 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESA: “An X-ray view of the COSMOS field” 

    ESASpaceForEuropeBanner
    European Space Agency

    22/04/2014
    No Writer Credit

    When we gaze up at the night sky, we are only seeing part of the story. Unfortunately, some of the most powerful and energetic events in the Universe are invisible to our eyes – and to even the best optical telescopes.

    osmos

    Luckily, these events are not lost; they appear vividly in the high-energy sky, making them visible to space-based telescopes like ESA’s XMM-Newton, which observes the Universe in the X-ray part of the spectrum.

    ESA XMM Newton
    ESA XMM-Newton

    This image shows a patch of sky from the COSMOS survey [Caltech], as viewed by XMM-Newton. COSMOS is a project studying how galaxies form and evolve, gathering observations using a variety of ground- and space-based telescopes. This image alone features about two thousand supermassive black holes, and over a hundred clusters of galaxies.

    Small point sources dotted across the frame show supermassive black holes that are hungrily devouring matter from their surroundings. All massive galaxies host a black hole at their core, but not all of these are actively accreting, dragging in surrounding matter and releasing high-energy radiation and powerful jets in the process. As they are so energetic, one of the best ways to hunt these extreme bodies is by using X-ray telescopes.

    The larger blobs in this image, mainly red and yellow, reveal another class of cosmic behemoths: galaxy clusters. Containing up to several thousand galaxies, galaxy clusters are the largest cosmic structures to be held together by gravity. The galaxies within these clusters are enveloped by hot gas, which releases a diffuse X-ray glow that can be detected by telescopes like XMM-Newton.

    The image combines data collected by the EPIC instrument on board XMM-Newton at energies from 0.5 to 2 keV (shown in red), 2 to 4.5 keV (shown in green) and 4.5 to 10 keV (shown in blue). The observations were taken between 2003 and 2005, and the image spans 1.4 degrees on each side, corresponding to almost three times the diameter of the full Moon.

    ESA EPIC
    EPIC on XMM-Newton

    This image was first published in the paper The XMM-Newton Wide-Field Survey in the COSMOS Field. I. Survey Description by G. Hasinger et al. in 2007.

    See the full article here.

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 8:36 pm on March 24, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESA: “Star-forming region ON2″ 2010 

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    European Space Agency

    Massive stars are born in tumultuous clouds of gas and dust. They lead a brief but intense life, blowing powerful winds of particles and radiation that strike their surroundings, before their explosive demise as supernovas.

    opn2
    ON2
    L.M. Oskinova, R.A. Gruendl, Spitzer Space Telescope, JPL, NASA & ESA
    Released 24/03/2014

    The interplay between massive stars and their environment is revealed in this image of the star-forming region ON2. It combines X-ray coverage from ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory with an infrared view from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

    ESA XMM Newton
    ESA XMM-newton

    NASA Spitzer Telescope
    NASA/Spitzer

    This stellar cradle is associated with the open cluster of stars named Berkeley 87, some 4000 light-years from Earth. The cluster is home to over 2000 stars, most of which are low-mass stars like our Sun or smaller, but some – a few dozen – are stellar monsters weighing 10–80 times more.

    Two glowing clouds of gas and dust – the raw material from which stars form – dominate the centre of the image and are shown in red. Scattered across the image are a multitude of protostars – seeds of future stellar generations; these are shown in green. The bright yellow star in the upper part of the image is BC Cygni, a massive star that has puffed up enormously and will eventually explode as a supernova.

    Shown in blue is XMM-Newton’s X-ray view of ON2: it reveals individual sources – young, massive stars as well as protostars – and more diffuse regions of X-rays. Two ‘bubbles’ of X-rays can be seen in the upper and lower clouds, respectively, pink against the red background. These two bubbles conceal the cumulative emissions from many protostars, but also light radiated by very energetic particles – a signature of shockwaves triggered by massive stars and their winds.

    The image combines observations performed in the X-ray energy range of 0.25–12 keV (blue) and at infrared wavelengths of 3.6 microns (green) and 8 microns (red). It spans about 15 arcminutes on each side; north is up and east is to the left.

    This image was first published in the paper Hard X-Ray Emission in the Star-Forming Region ON 2: Discovery with XMM-Newton by Oskinova et al. in April 2010.

    See the full article here.

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 4:40 pm on March 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From NASA/Chandra & XMM-Newton: RX J1131-1231 Provides Direct Measurement of Distant Black Hole’s Spin” 


    Chandra

    ESA XMM Newton
    XMM-Newton

    NASA Chandra

    Astronomers have directly measured the spin of a supermassive black hole in a quasar that is located 6 billion light years away. This is the most distant black hole where such a measurement has been made. Black holes are defined by just two simple characteristics: mass and spin. Finding out how quickly black holes are spinning reveals important information about how they grow over time.

    Multiple images of a distant quasar are visible in this combined view from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope. The Chandra data, along with data from ESA’s XMM-Newton, were used to directly measure the spin of the supermassive black hole powering this quasar. This is the most distant black hole where such a measurement has been made, as reported in our press release.

    comp
    Composite

    xray
    X-ray

    opt
    Optical
    Credit X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ of Michigan/R.C.Reis et al; Optical: NASA/STScI
    Release Date March 5, 2014
    Observation Date 28 Nov 2009

    Gravitational lensing by an intervening elliptical galaxy has created four different images of the quasar, shown by the Chandra data in pink. Such lensing, first predicted by [Alfred] Einstein, offers a rare opportunity to study regions close to the black hole in distant quasars, by acting as a natural telescope and magnifying the light from these sources. The Hubble data in red, green and blue shows the elliptical galaxy in the middle of the image, along with other galaxies in the field.

    The quasar is known as RX J1131-1231 (RX J1131 for short), located about 6 billion light years from Earth. Using the gravitational lens, a high quality X-ray spectrum – that is, the amount of X-rays seen at different energies – of RX J1131 was obtained.

    The X-rays are produced when a swirling accretion disk of gas and dust that surrounds the black hole creates a multimillion-degree cloud, or corona near the black hole. X-rays from this corona reflect off the inner edge of the accretion disk. The reflected X-ray spectrum is altered by the strong gravitational forces near the black hole. The larger the change in the spectrum, the closer the inner edge of the disk must be to the black hole.

    The authors of the new study found that the X-rays are coming from a region in the disk located only about three times the radius of the event horizon, the point of no return for infalling matter. This implies that the black hole must be spinning extremely rapidly to allow a disk to survive at such a small radius.

    This result is important because black holes are defined by just two simple characteristics: mass and spin. While astronomers have long been able to measure black hole masses very effectively, determining their spins have been much more difficult.

    These spin measurements can give researchers important clues about how black holes grow over time. If black holes grow mainly from collisions and mergers between galaxies they should accumulate material in a stable disk, and the steady supply of new material from the disk should lead to rapidly spinning black holes. In contrast if black holes grow through many small accretion episodes, they will accumulate material from random directions. Like a merry go round that is pushed both backwards and forwards, this would make the black hole spin more slowly.

    The discovery that the black hole in RX J1131 is spinning at over half the speed of light suggests that this black hole has grown via mergers, rather than pulling material in from different directions.

    These results were published online in the journal Nature. The lead author is Rubens Reis of the University of Michigan. His co-authors are Mark Reynolds and Jon M. Miller, also of Michigan, as well as Dominic Walton of the California Institute of Technology.

    See the full article here.

    ESA’s X-ray space observatory XMM-Newton is unique. It is the biggest scientific satellite ever built in Europe, its telescope mirrors are amongst the most powerful ever developed in the world, and with its sensitive cameras it can see much more than any previous X-ray satellite.

    Chandra X-ray Center, Operated for NASA by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
    Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory


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  • richardmitnick 5:32 pm on January 27, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ESA XMM-Newton   

    From ESA: “The whirl of stellar life” 

    ESASpaceForEuropeBanner
    European Space Agency

    27/01/2014
    No Writer Credit

    whirlpool

    The Whirlpool Galaxy, also known as M51 or NGC 5194, is one of the most spectacular examples of a spiral galaxy. With two spiral arms curling into one another in a billowing swirl, this galaxy hosts over a hundred billion stars and is currently merging with its companion, the smaller galaxy NGC 5195.

    m51
    M51 with NGC5195 in the upper right (Hubble)

    Around 30 million light-years away, the Whirlpool Galaxy is close enough to be easily spotted even with binoculars. Using the best telescopes available both on the ground and in space, astronomers can scrutinise its population of stars in extraordinary detail.

    In this image, observations performed at three different wavelengths with ESA’s Herschel and XMM-Newton space telescopes are combined to reveal how three generations of stars coexist in the Whirlpool Galaxy.

    ESA Herschel
    Herschel

    ESA XMM Newton
    XMM- Newton

    The infrared light collected by Herschel – shown in red and yellow – reveals the glow of cosmic dust, which is a minor but crucial ingredient in the interstellar material in the galaxy’s spiral arms. This mixture of gas and dust provides the raw material from which the Whirlpool Galaxy’s future generations of stars will take shape.

    Observing in visible and ultraviolet light, astronomers can see the current population of stars in the Whirlpool Galaxy, since stars in their prime shine most brightly at shorter wavelengths than infrared. Seen at ultraviolet wavelengths with XMM-Newton and portrayed in green in this composite image are the galaxy’s fiercest stellar inhabitants: young and massive stars pouring powerful winds and radiation into their surroundings.

    The image also shows the remains of previous stellar generations, which shine brightly in X-rays and were detected by XMM-Newton. Shown in blue, these sources of X-rays are either the sites where massive stars exploded as supernovae in the past several thousand years, or binary systems that host neutron stars or black holes, the compact objects left behind by supernovae.

    See the full article here.

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.


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  • richardmitnick 7:47 pm on November 18, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA XMM-Newton   

    From ESA/ XMM-Newton: “Hot gas sloshing in a galactic cauldron” 

    ESA Planck
    Planck

    XMM Newton
    XMM-Newton
    herschel
    Herschel

    18/11/2013 9:57 am

    Galaxies are social beasts that are mostly found in groups or clusters – large assemblies of galaxies that are permeated by even larger amounts of diffuse gas. With temperatures of 10 million degrees or more, the gas in galaxy groups and clusters is hot enough to shine brightly in X-rays and be detected by ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory.

    As galaxies speed through these gigantic cauldrons, they occasionally jumble the gas and forge it into lop-sided shapes. An example is revealed in this composite image of the galaxy group NGC 5044, the brightest group in X-rays in the entire sky.

    The group is named after the massive and bright elliptical galaxy at its centre, surrounded by tens of smaller spiral and dwarf galaxies. The galaxies are shown in a combination of optical images from the Digitized Sky Survey with infrared and ultraviolet images from NASA’s WISE and Galex satellites, respectively. Foreground stars are also sprinkled across the image.

    shot

    The large blue blob shows the distribution of hot gas filling the space between NGC 5044’s galaxies as imaged by XMM-Newton. From the X-ray observations, astronomers can also see the glow of iron atoms that were forged in stellar explosions within the galaxies of the group but streamed beyond. The distribution of iron atoms is shown in purple.

    Embedded within the hot gas are clouds of even more energetic plasma that emit radio waves – a reminder of the past activity of a supermassive black hole lurking at the centre of the group. These are the green filament extending from the central galaxy to the lower right and the larger green region to its lower left, which were imaged with the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope, near Pune in India.

    The distribution of the intergalactic gas and its ingredients is asymmetric, with a larger splotch in the upper right part of the image and a smaller one in the lower left.

    Astronomers believe that gas in NGC 5044 is sloshing as a consequence of a galaxy that passed through it several millions of years ago. The culprit is the spiral galaxy NGC 5054, which is not visible here, instead hiding beyond its lower left corner.

    The transit of NGC 5054 through the centre of the group may have also caused the twisted shape of the radio-bright filament.

    This image was first published in the XMM-Newton Image Gallery in October 2013. The analysis is reported in the paper by E. O’Sullivan et al. “The impact of sloshing on the intra-group medium and old radio lobe of NGC 5044.”

    See the full article here.

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 12:43 pm on August 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA XMM-Newton   

    From ESA: “Mysterious magnetar boasts one of strongest magnetic fields in Universe” 

    ESA Planck

    Planck

    XMM Newton

    XMM-Newton

    herschel

    Herschel

    14 August 2013
    Markus Bauer
    ESA Science and Robotic Exploration Communication Officer
    Tel: +31 71 565 6799
    Mob: +31 61 594 3 954
    Email: markus.bauer@esa.int

    Andrea Tiengo
    Istituto Universitario di Studi Superiori and Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare
    Pavia, Italy and Istituto di Astrofisica Spaziale e Fisica Cosmica/INAF Milan, Italy
    Email: andrea.tiengo[@]iusspavia.it
    Phone: +39-0382-375865 or +39-02-23699-468

    Norbert Schartel
    XMM-Newton Project Scientist
    Tel: +34 91 8131 184
    Email: Norbert.Schartel@sciops.esa.int

    “Scientists using ESA’s XMM-Newton space telescope have discovered that a curious dead star has been hiding one of the strongest magnetic fields in the Universe all along, despite earlier suggestions of an unusually low magnetic field.

    sgr
    Magnetic loop on magnetar SGR 0418

    The object, known as SGR 0418+5729 (or SGR 0418 for short), is a magnetar, a particular kind of neutron star.

    A neutron star is the dead core of a once massive star that collapsed in on itself after burning up all its fuel and exploding in a dramatic supernova event. They are extraordinarily dense objects, packing more than the mass of our Sun into a sphere only some 20 km across – about the size of a city.

    A small proportion of neutron stars form and live briefly as magnetars, named for their extremely intense magnetic fields, billions to trillions of times greater than those generated in hospital MRI machines, for example. These fields cause magnetars to erupt sporadically with bursts of high-energy radiation.

    SGR 0418 lies in our galaxy, about 6500 light years from Earth. It was first detected in June 2009 by space telescopes including NASA’s Fermi and Roscosmos’ Koronas-Photon when it suddenly lit up in X-rays and soft gamma rays. It has been studied subsequently by a fleet of observatories, including ESA’s XMM-Newton.

    ‘Until very recently, all indications were that this magnetar had one of the weakest surface magnetic fields known; at 6 x 1012 Gauss, it was roughly a 100 times lower than for typical magnetars,’ said Andrea Tiengo of the Istituto Universitario di Studi Superiori, Pavia, Italy, and lead author of the paper published in Nature.

    ‘Understanding these results was a challenge. However, we suspected that SGR 0418 was in fact hiding a much stronger magnetic field, out of reach of our usual analytical techniques.’

    Magnetars spin more slowly than neutron stars, but still complete a rotation within a few seconds. The normal way of determining the magnetic field of a magnetar is to measure the rate at which the spin is declining. Three years of observations of SGR 0418 had led astronomers to infer a weak magnetic field.

    The new technique developed by Dr Tiengo and his collaborators involves searching for variations in the X-ray spectrum of the magnetar over extremely short time intervals as it rotates. This method allows astronomers to analyse the magnetic field in much more detail and has revealed SGR 0418 as a true magnetic monster.”

    See the full article here.

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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