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  • richardmitnick 11:51 am on November 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , CfA Submillimeter Array, Cyg X-3's Little Friend: A Stellar Circle of Life, NASA Chandra, X-ray binaries   

    From Chandra: “Cyg X-3’s Little Friend: A Stellar Circle of Life” 

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    This composite image shows X-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (white) and radio data from the Smithsonian’s Submillimeter Array (red and blue). The X-ray data reveal a bright X-ray source to the right known as Cygnus X-3, a system containing either a black hole or neutron star (a.k.a. a compact source) left behind after the death of a massive star. Within that bright source, the compact object is pulling material away from a massive companion star. Astronomers call such systems “X-ray binaries.
    Credit X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/M.McCollough et al, Radio: ASIAA/SAO/SMA
    Release Date November 21, 2016
    Observation Date 26 Jan 2006
    Observation Time 13 hours 46 min

    CfA Submillimeter Array Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA
    CfA Submillimeter Array Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

    Cygnus X-3 is an X-ray binary where a compact source is pulling material away from a massive companion star.

    Chandra’s high-resolution X-ray vision revealed a cloud of gas and dust that is a separated by a very small distance from Cygnus X-3.

    This gas cloud, dubbed the “Little Friend,” is a Bok globule, the first ever detected in X-rays and the most distant one ever discovered.

    Astronomers detected jets produced by the “Little Friend”, showing that a star is forming inside it.

    A snapshot of the life cycle of stars has been captured where a stellar nursery is reflecting X-rays from a source powered by an object at the endpoint of its evolution. This discovery, described in our latest press release, provides a new way to study how stars form.

    This composite image shows X-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (white) and radio data from the Smithsonian’s Submillimeter Array (red and blue). The X-ray data reveal a bright X-ray source to the right known as Cygnus X-3, a system containing either a black hole or neutron star (a.k.a. a compact source) left behind after the death of a massive star. Within that bright source, the compact object is pulling material away from a massive companion star. Astronomers call such systems “X-ray binaries.”

    In 2003, astronomers presented results using Chandra’s high-resolution vision in X-rays to identify a mysterious source of X-ray emission located very close to Cygnus X-3 on the sky (smaller white object to the upper left). The separation of these two sources is equivalent to the width of a penny about 800 feet away. A decade later, astronomers reported the new source is a cloud of gas and dust. In astronomical terms, this cloud is rather small – about 0.7 light years in diameter or under the distance between the Sun and Pluto’s orbit.

    Astronomers realized that this nearby cloud was acting as a mirror, reflecting some of the X-rays generated by Cygnus X-3 towards Earth. They nicknamed this object the “Little Friend” due to its close proximity to Cygnus X-3 on the sky and because it also demonstrated the same 4.8-hour variability in X-rays seen in the X-ray binary.

    To determine the nature of the Little Friend, more information was needed. The researchers used the Submillimeter Array (SMA), a series of eight radio dishes atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii, to discover the presence of molecules of carbon monoxide. This is an important clue that helped confirm previous suggestions that the Little Friend is a Bok globule, small, dense, very cold clouds where stars can form. The SMA data also reveal the presence of a jet or outflow within the Little Friend, an indication that a star has started to form inside. The blue portion shows a jet moving towards us and the red portion shows a jet moving away from us.

    These results were published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, and the paper is also available online. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra’s science and flight operations.

    See the full article here .

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    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:12 pm on November 9, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Markarian 1018: Starvation Diet for Black Hole Dims Brilliant Galaxy, NASA Chandra,   

    From Chandra: “Markarian 1018: Starvation Diet for Black Hole Dims Brilliant Galaxy” 

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    November 9, 2016

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    Credit X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ of Sydney/R.McElroy et al, Optical: ESO/CARS Survey
    Release Date November 9, 2016
    Observation Date 27 Nov 2010, 25 Feb 2016

    Markarian 1018 is an “active galaxy” that has brightened and dimmed over about 30 years.

    Such shifting between bright and dim phases has never been studied before in such detail.

    By combining data from Chandra, VLT and several other telescopes, scientists have narrowed in on the explanation.

    It appears the dimming arises from the black hole at the center being deprived of enough fuel to illuminate its surroundings.

    Astronomers may have solved the mystery of the peculiar volatile behavior of a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy. Combined data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other observatories suggest that the black hole is no longer being fed enough fuel to make its surroundings shine brightly.

    Many galaxies have an extremely bright core, or nucleus, powered by material falling toward a supermassive black hole. These so-called “active galactic nuclei” or AGN, are some of the brightest objects in the Universe.

    Astronomers classify AGN into two main types based on the properties of the light they emit. One type of AGN tends to be brighter than the other. The brightness is generally thought to depend on either or both of two factors: the AGN could be obscured by surrounding gas and dust, or it could be intrinsically dim because the rate of feeding of the supermassive black hole is low.

    Some AGN have been observed to change once between these two types over the course of only 10 years, a blink of an eye in astronomical terms. However, the AGN associated with the galaxy Markarian 1018 stands out by changing type twice, from a faint to a bright AGN in the 1980s and then changing back to a faint AGN within the last five years. A handful of AGN have been observed to make this full-cycle change, but never before has one been studied in such detail. During the second change in type the Markarian 1018 AGN became eight times fainter in X-rays between 2010 and 2016.

    After discovering the AGN’s fickle nature during a survey project using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers requested and received time to observe it with both NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope.

    ESO/VLT at Cerro Paranal, Chile
    ESO/VLT at Cerro Paranal, Chile

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    The accompanying graphic shows the AGN in optical light from the VLT (left) with a Chandra image of the galaxy’s central region in X-rays showing the point source for the AGN (right).

    Data from ground-based telescopes including the VLT allowed the researchers to rule out a scenario in which the increase in the brightness of the AGN was caused by the black hole disrupting and consuming a single star. The VLT data also cast doubt on the possibility that changes in obscuration by intervening gas cause changes in the brightness of the AGN.

    However, the true mechanism responsible for the AGN’s surprising variation remained a mystery until Chandra and Hubble data was analyzed. Chandra observations in 2010 and 2016 conclusively showed that obscuration by intervening gas was not responsible for the decline in brightness. Instead, models of the optical and ultraviolet light detected by Hubble, NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey in the bright and faint states showed that the AGN had faded because the black hole was being starved of infalling material.

    NASA/Galex telescope
    NASA/Galex telescope

    SDSS Telescope at Apache Point, NM, USA
    SDSS Telescope at Apache Point, NM, USA

    One possible explanation for this starvation is that the inflow of fuel is being disrupted. This disruption could be caused by interactions with a second supermassive black hole in the system. A black hole binary is possible as the galaxy is the product of a collision and merger between two large galaxies, each of which likely contained a supermassive black hole in its center.

    The list observatories used in this finding also include NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) mission and Swift spacecraft.

    NASA/NuSTAR
    NASA/NuSTAR

    NASA/SWIFT Telescope
    NASA/SWIFT Telescope

    This starvation also explains the fading of the AGN in X-rays.

    Two papers, one with the first author of Bernd Husemann (previously at ESO and currently at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy) and the other with Rebecca McElroy (University of Sydney), describing these results appeared in the September 2016 issue of Astronomy & Astrophysics journal.

    See the full article here .

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    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:20 pm on October 19, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA Chandra, NGC 5128   

    From Chandra via phys.org: “NGC 5128: Mysterious cosmic objects erupting in X-rays discovered” 

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    Credit NASA/CXC/UA/J.Irwin et al.
    Release Date October 19, 2016

    Two flaring objects in two different galaxies may represent an entirely new phenomenon.

    These objects brighten in X-rays by a factor of 100 in about a minute before returning to previous level in about an hour.

    There are several important differences between these objects and magnetars, which are also known to flare rapidly in X-rays.

    Astronomers used data from both Chandra and XMM-Newton to make this discovery.

    ESA/XMM Newton
    ESA/XMM Newton

    This image shows the location of a remarkable source that dramatically flares in X-rays unlike any ever seen. Along with another similar source found in a different galaxy, these objects may represent an entirely new phenomenon, as reported in our latest press release.

    These two objects were both found in elliptical galaxies, NGC 5128 (also known as Centaurus A) shown here and NGC 4636. In this Chandra X-ray Observatory image of NGC 5128, low, medium, and high-energy X-rays are colored red, green, and blue, and the location of the flaring source is outlined in the box to the lower left.

    Both of these mysterious sources flare dramatically – becoming a hundred times brighter in X-rays in about a minute before steadily returning to their original X-ray levels about an hour later. At their X-ray peak, these objects qualify as ultraluminous X-ray sources (ULXs) that give off hundreds to thousands of times more X-rays than typical X-ray binary systems where a star is orbiting a black hole or neutron star.

    Five flares were detected from the source located near NGC 5128, which is at a distance of about 12 million light years from Earth. A movie showing the average change in X-rays for the three flares with the most complete Chandra data, covering both the rise and fall, is shown in the inset.

    The source associated with the elliptical galaxy NGC 4636, which is located about 47 million light years away, was observed to flare once.

    The only other objects known to have such rapid, bright, repeated flares involve young neutron stars such as magnetars, which have extremely powerful magnetic fields. However, these newly flaring sources are found in populations of much older stars. Unlike magnetars, the new flaring sources are likely located in dense stellar environments, one in a globular cluster and the other in a small, compact galaxy.

    When they are not flaring, these newly discovered sources appear to be normal binary systems where a black hole or neutron star is pulling material from a companion star similar to the Sun. This indicates that the flares do not significantly disrupt the binary system.

    While the nature of these flares is unknown, the team has begun to search for answers. One idea is that the flares represent episodes when matter pulled away from a companion star falls rapidly onto a black hole or neutron star. This could happen when the companion makes its closest approach to the compact object in an eccentric orbit. Another explanation could involve matter falling onto an intermediate-mass black hole, with a mass of about 800 times that of the Sun for one source and 80 times that of the Sun for the other.

    This result is describing in a paper appearing in the journal Nature on October 20, 2016. The authors are Jimmy Irwin (University of Alabama), Peter Maksym (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), Gregory Sivakoff (University of Alberta), Aaron Romanowsky (San Jose State University), Dacheng Lin (University of New Hampshire), Tyler Speegle, Ian Prado, David Mildebrath (University of Alabama), Jay Strader (Michigan State University), Jifeng Lui (Chinese Academy of Sciences), and Jon Miller (University of Michigan).

    See the full article here .

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    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:35 am on October 19, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Henize 2-10, NASA Chandra,   

    From Chandra via phys.org: “X-ray point source discovered at the center of a distant dwarf galaxy Henize 2-10” 

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    HST image of Henize 2-10. The inset shows the new 160 ks Chandra observation with VLA radio contours from Reines et al. (2011) and has dimensions 600 × 400 (∼ 265 pc × 175 pc). Credit: Reines et al., 2016.

    NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has helped astronomers to uncover a previously unidentified X-ray point source at the massive black hole in the center of a distant compact starburst galaxy known as Henize 2-10. The findings are available in a paper published Oct. 5 [ApJ Letters] on the arXiv pre-print server.

    Located some 34 million light years away in the constellation of Pyxis, Henize 2-10 is the first dwarf galaxy found to have a supermassive black hole at its center. With a mass of less than 10 billion solar masses, it is a compact starburst galaxy hosting numerous young “super star clusters” and a candidate low-luminosity active galactic nucleus (AGN).

    The presence of an AGN in Henize 2-10 offers an excellent opportunity to study massive black hole accretion and star formation. This is due to the fact that active nuclei in dwarf galaxies undergoing a burst of star formation reveal essential astronomical processes. They could offer crucial insights on the interplay between a massive black hole and the stars of the galaxy in which it forms.

    Last year, in February 2015, a team of astronomers led by Amy Reines of the University of Michigan conducted new Chandra observations of Henize 2-10 complementary to those performed in 2001. The new data obtained by the researchers allowed them to uncover the presence of a previously unidentified X-ray point source, spatially coincident with the known nuclear radio source in this dwarf galaxy.

    “Chandra clearly resolved the nuclear emission in Henize 2-10 and revealed the varying hard X-ray source to be due to a nearby X-ray binary, where a black hole, or a neutron star, eats material from a nearby typical star,” Mark Reynolds of the University of Michigan, co-author of the paper, told Phys.org.

    The fact that the new source is so bright allows the researchers to assume that the X-ray binary contains a “hungry” stellar-mass black hole that is eating very rapidly. They added that only very few X-ray binaries in our galaxy consume as much material as this source.

    However, the scientists still need to determine the cause of the variability observed from that source.

    “For example, it might be due to changes in the structure of the material it is eating. Another idea is that the variability could be driven by the time it takes the nearby star to orbit the stellar-mass black hole,” Reynolds said.

    This black hole in Henize 2-10 is potentially of great importance for astronomers, as it is the best-known example of a supermassive black hole in a dwarf galaxy. It is believed that early in the universe, relatively low-mass black holes grew in the initial galaxies that were small and gas-rich, such as Henize 2-10.

    “Thus, this provides critical insight into the early stages of galaxy and black hole evolution. Our new observations have shed light on the X-rays emitted from the nucleus of Henize 2-10. The massive black hole in this galaxy appears to be eating material in a similar manner to, for example, the supermassive black hole at the center of our Galaxy,” Reynolds concluded.

    The team plans to focus their future observations of Henize 2-10 on studying its supermassive black hole emission by observing when the X-ray binary is eating relatively slowly and is not bright. This could provide new information on the relationship between how this supermassive black hole eats material and the “burps” it gives off, and to determine how this influences star formation in this galaxy.

    See the full article here .

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    Phys.org™ (formerly Physorg.com) is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004, Phys.org’s readership has grown steadily to include 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Phys.org publishes approximately 100 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Quancast 2009 includes Phys.org in its list of the Global Top 2,000 Websites. Phys.org community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page.

    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:13 pm on October 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , NASA Chandra, , XJ1417+52: X-ray Telescopes Find Evidence for Wandering Black Hole   

    From Chandra: “XJ1417+52: X-ray Telescopes Find Evidence for Wandering Black Hole” 

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    October 5, 2016

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    Credit X-ray: NASA/CXC/UNH/D.Lin et al; Optical: NASA/STScI

    A “wandering” black hole has been found in the outer regions of a galaxy about 4.5 billion light years from Earth.

    Evidence suggests this newly discovered black hole has about 100,000 times the Sun’s mass, and was originally located in a smaller galaxy that merged with a larger one.

    Chandra data show this object gave off a tremendous amount of X-rays, which classifies it as a “hyperluminous X-ray source”.

    The burst of X-rays may have come from a star that was torn apart by the strong gravity of the black hole.

    Astronomers have used NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory to discover an extremely luminous, variable X-ray source located outside the center of its parent galaxy.

    ESA/XMM Newton
    ESA/XMM Newton

    This peculiar object could be a wandering black hole that came from a small galaxy falling into a larger one.

    Astronomers think that supermassive black holes, with some 100,000 to 10 billion times the Sun’s mass, are in the centers of most galaxies. There is also evidence for the existence of so-called intermediate mass black holes, which have lower masses ranging between about 100 and 100,000 times that of the Sun.

    Both of these types of objects may be found away from the center of a galaxy following a collision and merger with another galaxy containing a massive black hole. As the stars, gas and dust from the second galaxy move through the first one, its black hole would move with it.

    A new study reports the discovery of one of these “wandering” black holes toward the edge of the lenticular galaxy SDSS J141711.07+522540.8 (or, GJ1417+52 for short), which is located about 4.5 billion light years from Earth. This object, referred to as XJ1417+52, was discovered during long observations of a special region, the so-called Extended Groth Strip, with XMM-Newton and Chandra data obtained between 2000 and 2002. Its extreme brightness makes it likely that it is a black hole with a mass estimated to be about 100,000 times that of the Sun, assuming that the radiation force on surrounding matter equals the gravitational force.

    The main panel of this graphic has a wide-field, optical light image from the Hubble Space Telescope. The black hole and its host galaxy are located within the box in the upper left. The inset on the left contains Hubble’s close-up view of GJ1417+52. Within this inset the circle shows a point-like source on the northern outskirts of the galaxy that may be associated with XJ1417+52.

    The inset on the right is Chandra’s X-ray image of XJ1417+52 in purple, covering the same region as the Hubble close-up. This is a point source, with no evidence seen for extended X-ray emission.

    The Chandra and XMM-Newton observations show the X-ray output of XJ1417+52 is so high that astronomers classify this object as a “hyper-luminous X-ray source” (HLX).

    These are objects that are 10,000 to 100,000 times more luminous in X-rays than stellar black holes, and 10 to 100 times more powerful than ultraluminous X-ray sources, or ULXs.

    At its peak XJ1417+52 is about ten times more luminous than the brightest X-ray source ever seen for a wandering black hole. It is also about 10 times more distant than the previous record holder for a wandering black hole.

    The bright X-ray emission from this type of black hole comes from material falling toward it. The X-rays from XJ1417+52 reached peak brightness in X-rays between 2000 and 2002. The source was not detected in later Chandra and XMM observations obtained in 2005, 2014 and 2015. Overall, the X-ray brightness of the source has declined by at least a factor of 14 between 2000 and 2015.

    The authors theorize that the X-ray outburst seen in 2000 and 2002 occurred when a star passed too close to the black hole and was torn apart by tidal forces. Some of the gaseous debris would have been heated and become bright in X-rays as it fell towards the black hole, causing the spike in emission.

    The location and brightness of the optical source in the Hubble image that may be associated with XJ1417+52 suggest that the black hole could have originally belonged to a small galaxy that plowed into the larger GJ1417+52 galaxy, stripping away most of the galaxy’s stars but leaving behind the black hole and its surrounding stars at the center of the small galaxy. If this idea is correct the surrounding stars are what is seen in the Hubble image.

    A paper by Dacheng Lin (University of New Hampshire) and colleagues describing this result appears in The Astrophysical Journal and is available online.

    See the full article here .

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    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:45 pm on September 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , NASA Chandra, , , , The Frontier Fields: Where Primordial Galaxies Lurk   

    From JPL-Caltech: “The Frontier Fields: Where Primordial Galaxies Lurk” 

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    September 28, 2016
    Elizabeth Landau
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-354-6425
    elizabeth.landau@jpl.nasa.gov

    Written by Adam Hadhazy

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    This image of galaxy cluster Abell 2744, also called Pandora’s Cluster, was taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope. The cluster is also being studied by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-Ray Observatory in a collaboration called the Frontier Fields project. Image credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    NASA/Spitzer Telescope
    NASA/Spitzer Telescope

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/Chandra Telescope
    NASA/Chandra Telescope

    In the ongoing hunt for the universe’s earliest galaxies, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has wrapped up its observations for the Frontier Fields project. This ambitious project has combined the power of all three of NASA’s Great Observatories — Spitzer, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory — to delve as far back in time and space as current technology can allow.

    Even with today’s best telescopes, it is difficult to gather enough light from the very first galaxies, located more than 13 billion light years away, to learn much about them beyond their approximate distance. But scientists have a tool of cosmic proportions to help in their studies. The gravity exerted by massive, foreground clusters of galaxies bends and magnifies the light of faraway, background objects, in effect creating cosmic zoom lenses. This phenomenon is called gravitational lensing.

    The Frontier Fields observations have peered through the strongest zoom lenses available by targeting six of the most massive galaxy clusters known. These lenses can magnify tiny background galaxies by as much as a factor of one hundred. With Spitzer’s new Frontier Fields data, along with data from Chandra and Hubble, astronomers will learn unprecedented details about the earliest galaxies.

    “Spitzer has finished its Frontier Fields observations and we are very excited to get all of this data out to the astronomical community,” said Peter Capak, a research scientist with the NASA/JPL Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena, California, and the Spitzer lead for the Frontier Fields project.

    A recent paper published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics presented the full catalog data for two of the six galaxy clusters studied by the Frontier Fields: Abell 2744 — nicknamed Pandora’s Cluster — and MACS J0416, both located about four billion light years away. The other galaxy clusters selected for Frontier Fields are RXC J2248, MACS J1149, MACS J0717 and Abell 370.

    Eager astronomers will comb the Frontier Fields catalogs for the tiniest, dimmest-lensed objects, many of which should prove to be the most distant galaxies ever glimpsed. The current record-holder, a galaxy called GN-z11, was reported in March by Hubble researchers at the astonishing distance of 13.4 billion light-years, only a few hundred million years after the big bang. The discovery of this galaxy did not require gravitational lenses because it is an outlying, extremely bright object for its epoch. With the magnification boost provided by gravitational lenses, the Frontier Fields project will allow researchers to study typical objects at such incredible distances, painting a more accurate and complete picture of the universe’s earliest galaxies.

    Astronomers want to understand how these primeval galaxies arose, how their constituent mass developed into stars, and how these stars have enriched the galaxies with chemical elements fused in their thermonuclear furnaces. To learn about the origin and evolution of the earliest galaxies, which are quite faint, astronomers need to collect as much light as possible across a range of frequencies. With sufficient light from these galaxies, astronomers can perform spectroscopy, pulling out details about stars’ compositions, temperatures and their environments by examining the signatures of chemical elements imprinted in the light.

    “With the Frontier Fields approach,” said Capak, “the most remote and faintest galaxies are made bright enough for us to start to say some definite things about them, such as their star formation histories.”

    Because the universe has expanded over its 13.8-billion-year history, light from extremely distant objects has been stretched out, or redshifted, on its long journey to Earth. Optical light emitted by stars in the gravitational-lensed, background galaxies viewed in the Frontier Fields has therefore redshifted into infrared. Spitzer can use this infrared light to gauge the population sizes of stars in a galaxy, which in turn gives clues to the galaxy’s mass. Combining the light seen by Spitzer and Hubble allows astronomers to identify galaxies at the edge of the observable universe.

    Hubble, meanwhile, scans the Frontier Fields galaxy clusters in optical and near-infrared light, which has redshifted from ultraviolet light on its journey to Earth. Chandra, for its part, observes the foreground galaxy clusters in high-energy X-rays emitted by black holes and ambient hot gas. Along with Spitzer, the space telescopes size up the masses of the galaxy clusters, including their unseen but substantial dark matter content. Nailing down the clusters’ total mass is a critical step in quantifying the magnification and distortion they produce on background galaxies of interest. Recent multi-wavelength results in this vein from the Frontier Fields project regarding the MACS J0416 and MACS J0717 clusters were published in October 2015 and February 2016. These results also brought in radio wave observations from the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array to see star-forming regions otherwise hidden by gas and dust.

    The Frontier Fields collaboration has inspired scientists involved in the effort as they look ahead to delving even deeper into the universe with the James Webb Space Telescope, which is planned for launch in 2018.

    “The Frontier Fields has been an entirely community-led project, which is different from the way many projects of this magnitude are typically pursued,” said Lisa Storrie-Lombardi of the Spitzer Science Center, also with the Frontier Fields project. “People have gotten together and really embraced Frontier Fields.”

    In addition to the six Frontier Fields galaxy clusters, Spitzer has done follow-up observations on other, slightly shallower fields Hubble has gazed into, expanding the overall number of cosmic regions where fairly deep observations have been taken. These additional fields will further serve as rich areas of investigation for Webb and future instruments.

    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive, housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

    For more information about Spitzer, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer

    http://spitzer.caltech.edu

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:29 am on September 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA Chandra, X-rays found at Pluto   

    From Chandra: “Pluto: X-ray Detection Sheds New Light on Pluto” 

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    September 14, 2016

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    Using Chandra, scientists have detected X-rays from Pluto for the first time.

    During four observations between February 2014 and August 2015, low-energy X-rays from Pluto were found.

    This X-ray emission comes from interaction between Pluto’s atmosphere and a wind of particles from the Sun.

    This result provides new insight into Pluto and its surrounding environment.

    The first detection of Pluto in X-rays has been made using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in conjunction with observations from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft.

    NASA/New Horizons spacecraft
    NASA/New Horizons spacecraft

    As reported in our press release this result offers new insight into the environment surrounding the largest and best-known object in the solar system’s outermost regions.

    As New Horizons approached Pluto in late 2014 and then flew by the planet during the summer of 2015, Chandra obtained data during four separate observations. During each observation, Chandra detected low-energy X-rays from the small planet. The main panel in this graphic is an optical image taken from New Horizons on its approach to Pluto, while the inset shows an image of Pluto in X-rays from Chandra.

    There is a significant difference in scale between the optical and X-ray images. New Horizons made a close flyby of Pluto but Chandra is located near the Earth, so the level of detail visible in the two images is very different. The Chandra image is 180,000 miles across at the distance of Pluto, but the planet is only 1,500 miles across. Pluto is detected in the X-ray image as a point source, showing the sharpest level of detail available for Chandra or any other X-ray observatory. This means that details over scales that are smaller than the X-ray source cannot be seen here.

    Detecting X-rays from Pluto is a somewhat surprising result given that Pluto – a cold, rocky world without a magnetic field – has no natural mechanism for emitting X-rays. However, scientists knew from previous observations of comets that the interaction between the gases surrounding such planetary bodies and the solar wind – the constant streams of charged particles from the Sun that speed throughout the solar system — can create X-rays.

    The researchers were particularly interested in learning more about the interaction between the gases in Pluto’s atmosphere and the solar wind. The New Horizons spacecraft carries an instrument designed to measure that activity up-close – Solar Wind Around Pluto (SWAP) – and scientists examined that data and proposed that Pluto contains a very mild, close-in bowshock, where the solar wind first “meets” Pluto (similar to a shock wave that forms ahead of a supersonic aircraft) and a small wake or tail behind the planet.

    The immediate mystery is that Chandra’s readings on the brightness of the X-rays are much higher than expected from the solar wind interacting with Pluto’s atmosphere. The Chandra detection is also surprising since New Horizons discovered Pluto’s atmosphere was much more stable than the rapidly escaping, “comet-like” atmosphere that many scientists expected before the spacecraft flew past in July 2015. In fact, New Horizons found that Pluto’s interaction with the solar wind is much more like the interaction of the solar wind with Mars, than with a comet. While Pluto is releasing enough gas from its atmosphere to make the observed X-rays, there isn’t enough solar wind flowing directly at Pluto at its great distance from the Sun to make them according to certain theoretical models.

    There are several suggested possibilities for the enhanced X-ray emission from Pluto. These include a much wider and longer tail of gases trailing Pluto than New Horizons detected using its SWAP instrument. Other possibilities are that interplanetary magnetic fields are focusing more particles than expected from the solar wind into the region around Pluto, or the low density of the solar wind in the outer solar system at the distance of Pluto could allow for the formation of a doughnut, or torus, of neutral gas centered around Pluto’s orbit. It will take deeper and higher resolution images of X-rays from Pluto’s environment than we currently have from Chandra to distinguish between these possibilities.

    A paper describing these results has been accepted and published online in the journal Icarus with Carey Lisse (Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory) as its first author.

    See the full article here .

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    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:33 pm on September 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA Chandra, RCW 103: Young Magnetar Likely the Slowest Pulsar Ever Detected   

    From Chandra: “RCW 103: Young Magnetar Likely the Slowest Pulsar Ever Detected” 

    NASA Chandra Banner
    NASA Chandra Telescope

    NASA Chandra

    September 8, 2016

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    X-ray: NASA/CXC/University of Amsterdam/N.Rea et al; Optical: DSS

    The slowest spinning neutron star may have been detected using Chandra and other X-ray telescopes.

    The object is found in the middle of the RCW 103 supernova remnant, which is about 10,700 light years from Earth.

    While other neutron stars spin multiple times a minute, this object only rotates once about every 6.5 hours.

    Chandra data showed this object displays properties of a magnetar, a type of neutron star with extremely powerful magnetic fields.

    Using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other X-ray observatories, astronomers have found evidence for what is likely one of the most extreme pulsars, or rotating neutron stars, ever detected. The source exhibits properties of a highly magnetized neutron star, or magnetar, yet its deduced spin period is thousands of times longer than any pulsar ever observed.

    For decades, astronomers have known there is a dense, compact source at the center of RCW 103, the remains of a supernova explosion located about 9,000 light years from Earth. This composite image shows RCW 103 and its central source, known officially as 1E 161348-5055 (1E 1613, for short), in three bands of X-ray light detected by Chandra. In this image, the lowest energy X-rays from Chandra are red, the medium band is green, and the highest energy X-rays are blue. The bright blue X-ray source in the middle of RCW 103 is 1E 1613. The X-ray data have been combined with an optical image from the Digitized Sky Survey.

    Observers had previously agreed that 1E 1613 is a neutron star, an extremely dense star created by the supernova that produced RCW 103. However, the regular variation in the X-ray brightness of the source, with a period of about six and a half hours, presented a puzzle. All proposed models had problems explaining this slow periodicity, but the main ideas were of either a spinning neutron star that is rotating extremely slowly because of an unexplained slow-down mechanism, or a faster-spinning neutron star that is in orbit with a normal star in a binary system.

    On June 22, 2016, an instrument aboard NASA’s Swift telescope captured the release of a short burst of X-rays from 1E 1613.

    NASA/SWIFT Telescope
    NASA/SWIFT Telescope

    The Swift detection caught astronomers’ attention because the source exhibited intense, extremely rapid fluctuations on a time scale of milliseconds, similar to other known magnetars. These exotic objects possess the most powerful magnetic fields in the Universe -trillions of times that observed on the Sun – and can erupt with enormous amounts of energy.

    Seeking to investigate further, a team of astronomers led by Nanda Rea of the University of Amsterdam quickly asked two other orbiting telescopes – NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR – to follow up with observations.

    NASA/NuSTAR
    NASA/NuSTAR

    New data from this trio of high-energy telescopes, and archival data from Chandra, Swift and ESA’s XMM-Newton confirmed that 1E 1613 has the properties of a magnetar, making it only the 30th known.

    ESA/XMM Newton
    ESA/XMM Newton

    These properties include the relative amounts of X-rays produced at different energies and the way the neutron star cooled after the 2016 burst and another burst seen in 1999. The binary explanation is considered unlikely because the new data show that the strength of the periodic variation in X-rays changes dramatically both with the energy of the X-rays and with time. However, this behavior is typical for magnetars.

    But the mystery of the slow spin remained. The source is rotating once every 24,000 seconds (6.67 hours), much slower than the slowest magnetars known until now, which spin around once every 10 seconds. This would make it the slowest spinning neutron star ever detected.

    Astronomers expect that a single neutron star will be spinning quickly after its birth in the supernova explosion and will then slow down over time as it loses energy. However, the researchers estimate that the magnetar within RCW 103 is about 2,000 years old, which is not enough time for the pulsar to slow down to a period of 24,000 seconds by conventional means.

    While it is still unclear why 1E 1613 is spinning so slowly, scientists do have some ideas. One leading scenario is that debris from the exploded star has fallen back onto magnetic field lines around the spinning neutron star, causing it to spin more slowly with time. Searches are currently being made for other very slowly spinning magnetars to study this idea in more detail.

    Another group, led by Antonino D’Aì at the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) in Palermo, Italy, monitored 1E 1613 in X-rays using Swift and in the near-infrared and visible light using the 2.2-meter telescope at the European Southern Observatory at La Silla, Chile, to search for any low-energy counterpart to the X-ray burst.

    MPG/ESO 2.2 meter telescope at La Silla
    MPG/ESO 2.2 meter telescope at La Silla, Chile

    They also conclude that 1E 1613 is a magnetar with a very slow spin period.

    A paper describing the findings of Rea’s team appears in the September 2, 2016, issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters and is available online. The authors of that paper are Nanda Rea (University of Amsterdam and IEEC-CSIC, Spain), A. Borghese (Univ. of Amsterdam), P. Esposito (Univ. of Amsterdam), F. Coti Zelati (Univ. of Amsterdam, INAF, Insubria), M. Bachetti (INAF), G. L. Israel (INAF), A. De Luca (INAF).

    A paper describing the findings of D’Aì’s team has been accepted for publication by Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and is also available online.

    NuSTAR is a Small Explorer mission led by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, also in Pasadena, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

    NASA’s Swift satellite was launched in November 2004 and is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:22 pm on August 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , CL J1001: Record-breaking Galaxy Cluster Discovered, Galaxy CL J1001+0220, NASA Chandra   

    From Chandra: “CL J1001: Record-breaking Galaxy Cluster Discovered” 

    NASA Chandra Banner
    NASA Chandra Telescope

    NASA Chandra

    August 30, 2016

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    Credit X-ray: NASA/CXC/Université Paris/T.Wang et al; Infrared: ESO/UltraVISTA; Radio: ESO/NAOJ/NRAO/ALMA

    Using Chandra and several other telescopes, astronomers have found the most distant galaxy cluster to date.

    This cluster, called CL J1001+0220, lies about 11.1 billion light years from Earth.

    Galaxy clusters are the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity.

    Chandra and the other telescopes may have captured this cluster at an important stage never seen before.

    This image contains the most distant galaxy cluster, a discovery made using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and several other telescopes. The galaxy cluster, known as CL J1001+0220, is located about 11.1 billion light years from Earth and may have been caught right after birth, a brief, but important stage of cluster evolution never seen before.

    The remote galaxy cluster was found in data from the COSMOS survey, a project that observes the same patch of sky in many different kinds of light ranging from radio waves to X-rays. This composite shows CL J1001+0220 (CL J1001, for short) in X-rays from Chandra (purple), infrared data from ESO’s UltraVISTA survey (red, green, and blue), and radio waves from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) (green).

    ESO/Vista Telescope
    ESO Vista Telescope
    ESO Vista Telescope

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at  Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres
    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres

    The diffuse X-ray emission comes from a large amount of hot gas, one of the defining elements of a galaxy cluster, as described in the press release.

    In addition to its extraordinary distance, CL J1001 is remarkable because of its high levels of star formation in galaxies near the center of the cluster. Within about 250,000 light years of the center of the cluster (its core), eleven massive galaxies are found and nine of those display high rates of formation. Specifically, stars are forming in the cluster core at a rate equivalent to about 3,400 Suns per year.

    The large amount of growth through star formation in the galaxies in CL J1001 distinguishes it from other galaxy clusters found at distances of about 10 billion light years and closer, where little growth is occurring. These results suggest that elliptical galaxies in clusters may form their stars through more violent and shorter bursts of star formation than elliptical galaxies outside clusters.

    The latest study shows that CL 1001 galaxy cluster may be undergoing a transformation from a galaxy cluster that is still forming, known as a “protocluster,” to a mature one. Astronomers have never found a galaxy cluster at this precise stage. These results may also imply that star formation slows down in large galaxies within clusters after the galaxies have already come together during the development of a galaxy cluster.

    A paper describing these results appeared in The Astrophysical Journal on August 30, 2016 and is available online.

    The authors were Tao Wang (French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, or CEA), David Elbaz (CEA), Emanuele Daddi (CEA), Alexis Finoguenov (University of Helsinki), Daizhong Liu (Purple Mountain Observatory, China), Veronica Strazzullo (Ludwig Maximillian University of Munich), Francesco Valentino (CEA), Remco van der Burg (CEA), Anita Zanella (CEA), Laure Ciesla (CEA), Raphael Gobat (Korean Institute for Advanced Study), Amandine Le Brun (CEA), Maurillio Pannella (Ludwig Maximillian University), Mark Sargent (University of Sussex), Xinwen Shu (Anhui Normal University), Qinghua Tan (University of Helsinki), Nico Cappelluti (Yale), and Yanxia Li (University of Hawaii).

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

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    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:51 pm on August 17, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA Chandra,   

    From Chandra: “G11.2-0.3: Supernova Ejected from the Pages of History” 

    NASA Chandra Banner
    NASA Chandra Telescope

    NASA Chandra

    August 17, 2016

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    Credit X-ray: NASA/CXC/NCSU/K.Borkowski et al; Optical: DSS
    References Borkowski, K. et al, 2016, ApJ, 819, 160; arXiv:1602.03531

    New Chandra data of the supernova remnant G11.2-0.3 raise new questions about the timing of its origin.

    Previously, G11.2-0.3 was associated with an event recorded by Chinese observers in 386 CE.

    Chandra observations show that dense gas clouds lie along the line of sight between Earth and G11.2-0.3.

    This new information means that the supernova explosion would have been too faint to be seen with the naked eye from Earth.

    A new look at the debris from an exploded star in our galaxy has astronomers re-examining when the supernova actually happened. Recent observations of the supernova remnant called G11.2-0.3 with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have stripped away its connection to an event recorded by the Chinese in 386 CE.

    Historical supernovas and their remnants can be tied to both current astronomical observations as well as historical records of the event. Since it can be difficult to determine from present observations of their remnant exactly when a supernova occurred, historical supernovas provide important information on stellar timelines. Stellar debris can tell us a great deal about the nature of the exploded star, but the interpretation is much more straightforward given a known age.

    New Chandra data on G11.2-0.3 show that dense clouds of gas lie along the line of sight from the supernova remnant to Earth. Infrared observations with the Palomar 5-meter Hale Telescope had previously indicated that parts of the remnant were heavily obscured by dust.

    Caltech Palomar 200 inch Hale Telescope
    Caltech Palomar 200 inch Hale Telescope interior
    Caltech Palomar 200 inch Hale Telescope

    This means that the supernova responsible for this object would simply have appeared too faint to be seen with the naked eye in 386 CE. This leaves the nature of the observed 386 CE event a mystery.

    A new image of G11.2-0.3 is being released in conjunction with this week’s workshop titled “Chandra Science for the Next Decade” being held in Cambridge, Massachusetts. While the workshop will focus on the innovative and exciting science Chandra can do in the next ten years, G11.2-0.3 is an example of how this “Great Observatory” helps us better understand the complex history of the Universe and the objects within it.

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    Historic Supernova Candidates. Credit NASA/CXC/SAO

    Taking advantage of Chandra’s successful operations since its launch into space in 1999, astronomers were able to compare observations of G11.2-0.3 from 2000 to those taken in 2003 and more recently in 2013. This long baseline allowed scientists to measure how fast the remnant is expanding. Using this data to extrapolate backwards, they determined that the star that created G11.2-0.3 exploded between 1,400 and 2,400 years ago as seen from Earth.

    Previous data from other observatories had shown this remnant is the product of a “core-collapse” supernova, one that is created from the collapse and explosion of a massive star. The revised timeframe for the explosion based on the recent Chandra data suggests that G11.2-0.3 is one of the youngest such supernovas in the Milky Way. The youngest, Cassiopeia A, also has an age determined from the expansion of its remnant, and like G11.2-0.3 was not seen at its estimated explosion date of 1680 CE due to dust obscuration. So far, the Crab nebula, the remnant of a supernova seen in 1054 CE, remains the only firmly identified historical remnant of a massive star explosion in our galaxy.

    Supernova remnant Crab nebula. NASA/ESA Hubble
    Supernova remnant Crab nebula. NASA/ESA Hubble

    This latest image of G11.2-0.3 shows low-energy X-rays in red, the medium range in green, and the high-energy X-rays detected by Chandra in blue. The X-ray data have been overlaid on an optical field from the Digitized Sky Survey, showing stars in the foreground.

    Although the Chandra image appears to show the remnant has a very circular, symmetrical shape, the details of the data indicate that the gas that the remnant is expanding into is uneven. Because of this, researchers propose that the exploded star had lost almost all of its outer regions, either in an asymmetric wind of gas blowing away from the star, or in an interaction with a companion star. They think the smaller star left behind would then have blown gas outwards at an even faster rate, sweeping up gas that was previously lost in the wind, forming the dense shell. The star would then have exploded, producing the G11.2-0.3 supernova remnant seen today.

    The supernova explosion also produced a pulsar – a rapidly rotating neutron star – and a pulsar wind nebula, shown by the blue X-ray emission in the center of the remnant. The combination of the pulsar’s rapid rotation and strong magnetic field generates an intense electromagnetic field that creates jets of matter and anti-matter moving away from the north and south poles of the pulsar, and an intense wind flowing out along its equator.

    A paper describing this result appeared in the March 9th, 2016 issue of The Astrophysical Journal and is available online. The authors are Kazimierz Borkowski and Stephen Reynolds, both of North Carolina State University, as well as Mallory Roberts from New York University.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    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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