NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory Views Blast from Material Falling into Supermassive Black Hole at Center of Galaxy Pictor A

Powerful beams of radiation continually shooting across 300,000 light-years of spacetime

This new composite image of the beam of particles was obtained by combining X-ray data (blue) from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory at various times over a fifteen year period and radio data from the Australian Telescope Compact Array (Red). Astronomers gain understanding and knowledge of the true nature of these amazing jets by studying and analyzing details of the structure of X-ray and radio data obtained.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/Chandra

Image caption: This new composite image of the beam of particles was obtained by combining X-ray data (blue) from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory at various times over a fifteen year period and radio data from the Australian Telescope Compact Array (Red). Astronomers gain understanding and knowledge of the true nature of these amazing jets by studying and analyzing details of the structure of X-ray and radio data obtained. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Chandra

Space news (February 25, 2016) – 500 million light-years away in the constellation Pictor –

The stunning Chandra X-ray image of radio galaxy Pictor A seen here shows an amazing jet that reminds one of the death rays from Star Wars emanating from a black hole in the center of the galaxy. The “Death Star” as portrayed in the Star Wars movie Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope was capable of totally destroying a planet using powerful beams of radiation. In just the same any planet finding itself in the direct path of the 300,000 light-years long, continuous jet emanating from the supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy is toast.

Astronomers think the stunning jet observed is produced by huge amounts of gravitational energy released as material swirls toward the pointofnoreturn in the gravity well of the supermassive black hole at its center the event horizon. These jets are an enormous beam of particles traveling at nearly the speed of light into the vastness of intergalactic space scientists call relativistic jets. 

Astronomers also report additional data confirming the existence of another jet pointing in the opposite direction to the jet seen in this image that they call a counter jet. Data had previously pointed to the existence of a counter jet and the latest Chandra data obtained confirmed this. Unfortunately, due to the motion of this opposite jet away from the line-of-sight to Earth, it’s very faint and hard for even Chandra to observe. 

Image caption: The labeled image seen here shows the location of the supermassive black hole and both jet and counter jet. The radio lobe label is where the jet pushes into surrounding gas and hotspot produced by shock waves near the tip of the jet. Image credit: NASA/JPL?ESA
The labeled image seen here shows the location of the supermassive black hole and both jet and counter-jet. The radio lobe label is where the jet pushes into surrounding gas and hotspot produced by shock waves near the tip of the jet.
Image credit: NASA/JPL?ESA

Current theories and computer simulations indicate the continuous X-ray emissions observed by Chandra could be produced by electrons spiraling around magnetic field lines in a process astronomers call synchrotron emission. They’re still trying to figure out how electrons could be continuously accelerated as they travel the length of the jet. But plan additional observations in the future to obtain more data to help develop new theories and computer simulations to explain this. 

Watch this YouTube video on Pictor A.

We’ll update you on any new developments and theories on jets emanating from supermassive black holes at the center of nearby galaxies as they’re developed.

You can learn more about jets emanating from supermassive black holes here.

Follow the journey of the Chandra X-ray Observatory here.

Learn more about relativistic jets here.

Read about astronomers recent discovery that superstar binaries like Eta Carinae are more common than first thought.

Read about the Nebra Sky Disk, a 3,600-year-old bronze disk, archaeoastronomers believe is the oldest known astronomical clock ever discovered.

Read and observe the hydrocarbon dunes of Saturn’s moon Titan.

New Satellite “Hitomi” (Pupil of the Eye) Observes Wider X-ray Universe

Japan successfully launched an H-2A rocket carrying the next generation of X-ray space observatory into orbit on Wednesday

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Space news (February 17, 2016) – The Yoshinobu Launch Complex at Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture in southwestern Japan –  

Anxious astronomers, engineers, and scientists in Japan, Canada and NASA headquarters watched nervously Wednesday as a two-stage H-2A carrier vehicle carrying years of their work and dedication rose slowly from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan.

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The H-2A rocket carried the next generation of X-ray space observatory “Hitomi”, formerly known as the Astro-H satellite, to its launch point 580 kilometers above the surface of the Earth.

We see X-rays from sources throughout the universe, wherever the particles in matter reach sufficiently high energies,” said Robert Petre, chief of Goddard’s X-ray Astrophysics Laboratory and the U.S. project scientist for ASTRO-H. “These energies arise in a variety of settings, including stellar explosions, extreme magnetic fields, or strong gravity, and X-rays let us probe aspects of these phenomena that are inaccessible by instruments observing at other wavelengths.”

As part of the launching of Astro-H, the satellite had been recently renamed “Hitomi”, which means “pupil of the eye” in Japanese. Using this eye-in-the-sky, astronomers around the world will study neutron stars, galaxy clusters and black holes in a wider bandwidth of x-rays from soft X-ray to the softest Gamma-ray.

This has been an extraordinary undertaking over many years to build this powerful new X-ray spectrometer jointly in the U.S. and Japan,” said Goddard’s Richard Kelley, the U.S. principal investigator for the ASTRO-H collaboration. “The international team is extremely excited to finally be able to apply the fundamentally new capabilities of the SXS, supported by the other instruments on the satellite, to observations of a wide range of celestial sources, especially clusters of galaxies and black hole systems.”

“Hitomi” is the sixth in a series of X-ray astronomy satellites designed and engineered by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS). All of the satellites in the series have been extremely successful X-ray observatories that have contributed to human knowledge of the cosmos. The latest satellite to launch into space is expected to offer breakthroughs in understanding and knowledge of the evolution of the largest structures observed in the cosmos.  

Canada’s connection to “Hitomi” is the Canadian ASTRO-H Metrology System (CAMS), which sharpens blurry images using lasers and detectors to correct for the movement of the boom used to support the ends of the extremely long detectors on the satellite. Needed to observe the highest-energy x-rays, the CAMS system was built in consultation with Canadian scientists and researchers by Ottawa-based Neptec.

The technology used in the SXS is leading the way to the next generation of imaging X-ray spectrometers, which will be able to distinguish tens of thousands of X-ray colors while capturing sharp images at the same time,” said Caroline Kilbourne, a member of the Goddard SXS team.

Hitomi starts work

Ultimately “Hitomi” was designed, engineered and launched by the three partners in this venture to conduct a survey of black holes and distant galaxies. They will use the results of the survey to help lift the veil of mystery surrounding the evolution of the most mysterious celestial objects in the cosmos. This is just the start of the space mission of “Hitomi”, once this initial mission concludes, we expect the newest automated-envoy of the human journey to the beginning of space and time to offer insights into the way matter acts in extreme gravitational fields, study the rotation of spinning black holes and the internal structure of neutron stars, and the dynamics and detailed physics of relativistic jets during its mission.

You can follow the space mission of “Hitomi” here.

Learn more about the things we learn about the cosmos each day here.

Learn more about Japan’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science.

Learn more about the future space missions of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. 

Read about the recent observation of gravitational waves by astronomers.

Learn about the things astronomers discovered recently about young, newborn stars.

Learn more about the things NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is telling us about Pluto and its moons.

Dancing Black Holes Destined to Merge Emit Weird Light Signal

A collision triggering a titanic release of energy with the power of 100 million supernovae

This simulation helps explain an odd light signal thought to be coming from a close-knit pair of merging black holes, PG 1302-102, located 3.5 billion light-years away. Credits: Columbia University
This simulation helps explain an odd light signal thought to be coming from a close-knit pair of merging black holes, PG 1302-102, located 3.5 billion light-years away.
Credits: Columbia University

Space news (February 07, 2016) – A weird, odd light, 3.5 billion light-years away, called PG 1302-102 –

Astronomers working with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) believe they have the most compelling data yet for the existence of merging black holes. Two black holes astronomers think are in the act of merging called PG 1302-102, appear to be emitting a strange, cyclical light signal. 

NASA's GALEX spacecraft scans the night sky. Credit: JPL/NASA
NASA’s GALEX spacecraft scans the night sky.
Credit: JPL/NASA

Trapped within their combined gravity well at a distance slightly bigger than our solar system, they’re destined to collide in less than a million years and trigger a titanic blast that will be heard across the universe. 

Astronomers first identified PG 1302-102 early this year as one of a number of candidate black hole pairs after they detected a weird light signal emanating from the center of a galaxy. After study and thought scientists demonstrated the varying signal detected is probably produced by the movement of two black holes orbiting each other every five years.

Black holes don’t emit light, but the material surrounding a black hole can. Astronomers used ultraviolet data to track the changing light patterns of PG 1302-102 during the past two decades to make this demonstration. 

We were lucky to have GALEX data to look through,” said co-author David Schiminovich of Columbia University in New York. “We went back into the GALEX archives and found that the object just happened to have been observed six times.”

Astronomers were able to test their prediction that black holes generate a cyclical light pattern. In the case of PG, 1302-102 scientists think one of the pairs of black holes emits more light, which means it’s devouring more material than its partner. During a five-year orbit of one pair of black holes, the light they emit changes and brightens to maximum when it points toward us.

It’s as if a 60-Watt light bulb suddenly appears to be 100 Watts,” explained Daniel D’Orazio, lead author of the study from Columbia University. “As the black hole light speeds away from us, it appears as a dimmer 20-Watt bulb.”

Astronomers call this a relativistic boosting effect, which has previously been detected using visible light. This pair of black holes is traveling toward us at speeds considered relativistic, with the fastest traveling at nearly seven percent the speed of light. 

At this speed, light is squeezed to shorter wavelengths as it travels toward us, in the same way, a train’s whistle squeals at higher frequencies as it comes towards you. This boosts and brightens the light detected, producing the periodic brightening and dimming observed.

D’Orazio, Schiminovich, and colleagues modeled the way it should look in ultraviolet light based on research done by other scientists in visible light. They calculated that if the previous brightening and dimming were due to the relativistic boosting effect as was seen in visible light? It should be detected at ultraviolet wavelengths but amplified about 2.5 times. After checking, they discovered their prediction matched ultraviolet light data provided by the Hubble Space Telescope and GALEX. 

We are strengthening our ideas of what’s going on in this system and starting to understand it better,” said Zoltán Haiman, a co-author from Columbia University who conceived the project.

Astronomers will now use the theories and ideas they develop through the study of PG 1302-102 to help understand merging black holes better and find more binary black hole pairs to observe. 

Once astronomers add the data they collect on merging black holes using the Hubble Space Telescope, GALEX and other observatories to the data they expect to achieve through the study and observation of gravitational waves. It will give us a better idea of the population of merging black holes across the universe and lift the veil on cosmic secrets sure to delight the soul.

Cosmic delights await!

You can learn more about the Hubble Space Telescope here.

Discover GALEX here.

Learn more about black holes here.

Learn more about the present theory on binary black holes here.

Read about astronomers stunning observations of gravitational waves.

Find out what astronomers believe hides beneath the icy shell of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

Discover the secrets NASA’s New Horizons has been telling astronomers about Pluto.

Spiral Galaxy NGC 4845

A flat and dust-filled disk orbiting a bright galactic bulge

Image credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble
Deep within the dusty center of spiral galaxy NGC 4845, hides a monster with hundreds of thousands of times the mass of our sun. Image credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble

Space news (February 20, 2016) – over 65 million light-years away in the constellation Virgo (The Virgin) –

This startling Hubble Space Telescope image of spiral galaxy NGC 4845 highlights its spiral structure but hides a monster. Deep within the center astronomers have detected a supermassive black hole, estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of times the mass of Sol. 

By following the movements of the innermost stars of NGC 4845, astronomers were able to determine they orbit around the center of the galaxy at a velocity indicating the presence of a supermassive black hole. 

Scientists previously used the same method to discover the presence of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way – Sagittarius A*. The Monster of the Milky Way has a mass around 4 million times that of our sun, which is slightly bigger than the supermassive black hole at the center of NGC 4845.

Astronomers also discovered the supermassive black hole deep within the center of NGC 4845 is a hungry monster that devours anything that falls too far into its gravity well. In 2013 astronomers studying a different island universe, noticed a violent flare erupting from the center of NGC 4845. 

Astronomers discovered an object many times the mass of Jupiter had fallen into the gravity well of this monster and was devoured. The violent flare erupting from the center of NGC 4845 was the death throes of a brown dwarf or large planet as it was being torn apart and drawn deeper into the gravity well of the supermassive black hole.

Learn more about supermassive black holes here.

Learn more about NGC 4845 here.

Learn more about the ESA.

Take the journey of NASA.

Learn more about the Monster of the Milky Way – Sagittarius A.

Learn more about the formation of new stars.

Read about astronomers recent observation of something Einstein predicted, but until now we have never observed, gravitational waves.

Learn about private firm Planetary Resources plans to mine an asteroid within the next decade.

Hubble Views New Galaxy Being Formed

Galaxy NGC 6052 is being formed into a single structure from the merging of two galaxies of similar mass 

Two become one
NGC 6052 still shows definite signs of a recent collision between two smaller galaxies of similar mass. Credits: NASA/ESA

Space news ( February 18, 2016) – 230 million light-years away in the constellation Hercules – 

This breathtaking Hubble image of galaxy NGC 6052 was taken with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 on board the Hubble Space Telescope. Astronomers originally classified this different looking island universe as an irregular galaxy, but after more study, they believe it’s a new galaxy in the process of being formed.  

Also called Mrk 297, LEDA 57039 and Arp 209, NGC 6052 has previously been described as having a rather unusual structure, as seen in the regions of strong emission and the irregular appendage on its eastern side as seen in this image. 

Looking at the image, it’s not easy to see the traces of two separate galaxies in the act of merging. Attracted by gravity, two smaller galaxies with similar mass were slowly drawn together, before colliding to form NGC 6052.  

As the merging process progresses, individual stars are knocked out of their original orbits and onto new ones that take them far outside the galaxy. The starlight in the image appears quite chaotic in shape and form, but over time, the chaotic shape of this new galaxy will settle down.  

Astronomers conducting a survey of nearby galaxies detected all types on the Hubble Tuning Fork, with about ten percent on average being classified as irregular or unusual using the Hubble classification system. The sample size in this survey is rather small, though, when you compare it to the size of the cosmos. 

The percentages of different galaxy types seem to vary according to the environment, so astronomers expect these numbers to change as the survey sample size increases. 

A titanic collision

Billions of years in the future, Andromeda and the Milky Way will have a similarly fated meeting, but this galactic merger will be a cosmic collision of a different sort. Andromeda has much more mass and is bigger than the Milky Way and astronomers expect this meeting to produce a different looking island universe than NGC 6052. 

Learn more about NASA past and future here

Take the journey of the Hubble Space Telescope

Learn more about the Hubble classification system

Learn more about NGC 6052

Discover galaxy types and the Hubble Tuning Fork here

Read about the Nebra Sky Disk, a portable instrument used by stone-age astronomers to sync the lunar and solar calendars.

Discover Goseck Henge, a 7,000-year-old solar observatory.

Learn more about the evolution and formation of the Milky Way.

Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory Views Gravitational Waves

Traveling across the fabric of spacetime as two black holes merge

This is an artist's impression of gravitational waves generated by binary neutron stars . Credits: R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL
This is an artist’s impression of gravitational waves generated by binary neutron stars.
Credits: R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL

Space news (February 18, 2016) – It took a hundred years, but Einstein must be smiling, wherever he is –

Astronomers working with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) recently announced they had observed the ripples of gravitational waves in space-time as predicted by Albert Einstein in his ground-breaking general theory of relativity in November of 1915. 

Using two LIGO ground-based observatories in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, astrophysicists observed gravitational waves within the range of 10 to 1,000 cycles per second (10 to 1,000 Hz). LIGO is the most sensitive instrument ever devised by man but is only sensitive to gravitational waves within this narrow band of frequencies and specific source types. 

Astronomers believe the gravitational waves observed by LIGO were produced in the final moments of the merger of two black holes into a single, spinning monster black hole. The collision and eventual merger of black holes were predicted by scientists, but this is the first time it has been observed as it happened. You can watch and learn more about astronomers simulations of two black holes merging here.

Astronomers estimate these black holes had masses of about 29 and 36 times the mass of Sol when this event happened about 1.3 billion years ago. At the time of gravitational waves were produced, about three times the mass of our sun was converted in a fraction of a second. In a brief moment of time, astronomers estimate about 50 times the total power output of all the suns in the universe was emitted. 

In this case, astronomers estimate two black holes around 150 meters in diameter, with 29 and 36 times the mass of Sol, collided at nearly half the speed of light and produced the gravitational waves observed. All estimates of size, mass, and other parameters made using LIGO have a significant plus/minus, so the numbers provided should be taken with a grain of salt, or two.

General relativity predicts these black holes collided into each other at almost fifty percent the speed of light. The collision forms a single, more massive black hole, but a portion of the combined mass of the black holes was converted to energy according to Einstein’s E = mc2. It was this energy that was emitted and observed by LIGO as a strong burst of gravitational waves, producing the violent storm in spacetime detected.

Doors to a new cosmos open

This news kicks open doors to a new branch of astrophysics, well refer to as gravitational astronomy, scientists have dreamed of exploring for over 50 years. Astronomers expect this young branch of astronomy to offer information capable of opening doors that will allow us to view the cosmos in ways the study of electromagnetic radiation hasn’t allowed. It will also complement the things we have learned about the cosmos through the detection and study of electromagnetic radiation.

The next phase of gravitational wave observation will be to design and engineer space-based systems to allow us a better view through our new window on the universe. Space-based systems can detect gravitational waves at frequencies from 0.0001 to 0.1 Hz and a bigger range of source types. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are currently developing concepts for space-based observatories capable of detecting gravitational waves.

eLISA

eLISA will be the first observatory in space to explore the Gravitational Universe. It will gather revolutionary information about the dark universe. Credit: eLISA/ESA
eLISA will be the first observatory in space to explore the Gravitational Universe. It will gather revolutionary information about the dark universe.
Credit: eLISA/ESA

The ESA and NASA are currently developing the first space-based gravitational wave observatory eLISA, which will allow astronomers to directly observe the universe using gravitational waves. eLISA will allow us to listen to the universe in gravitational waves and observe the interesting sources of gravitational waves in the cosmos.

Essentially a high precision laser interferometer in space with an arm length of 1 million km, eLISA will open even more doors and windows to the gravitational universe and extend the cosmic horizon. This important mission extends the spectrum of gravitational waves astronomers want to study.

LISA Pathfinder

LISA Pathfinder is on station at the L1 LaGrange point and is preparing to do an important experiment. Credit: Pathfinder/ESA
LISA Pathfinder is on station at the L1 LaGrange point and is preparing to do an important experiment.
Credit: Pathfinder/ESA

The ESA’s LISA Pathfinder mission, in partnership with NASA, is currently getting ready to demonstrate technologies expected to be used in future space-based gravitational observatories. LISA Pathfinder is currently at the L1 LaGrange point, about 1.5 million km in the direction of Sol, and is preparing to begin its science mission.

LISA Pathfinder was made to test the theory that free particles follow geodesics in spacetime, which is a key idea behind the design and engineering of gravitational wave detectors. Scientists had to design and engineer new technologies that allow them to track two test masses nominally in free fall, using picometer resolution laser interferometry. 

You can learn more about NASA here.

Discover the mission of eLISA here.

Learn more about the LISA Pathfinder mission here.

Learn more about LIGO here.

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Read about the youngest, nearest black hole candidate found by astronomers.

Learn about US congress recognizing the right of US citizens to own asteroid resources.

Read about concerned earthlings planning on moving to the Red Planet in the future.

Globular Cluster Terzan 1

100,000 stars bonded by gravity in a spherical shape hundreds of light-years across

Old, red stars inhabit globular cluster Terzan 1, which is a few hundred light-years across. The brighter, blue stars in this image are in fact foreground stars, and not part of the globular cluster. Image credit: NASA & ESA
Old, red stars inhabit globular cluster Terzan 1, which is a few hundred light-years across. The brighter, blue stars in this image are in fact foreground stars and not part of the globular cluster. Image credit: NASA & ESA

Space news (February 19, 2016) – 20,000 light-years away in the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion) –

Astronomers using the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 onboard NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope recently took this image of globular cluster Terzan 1. Just one of around 150 globular clusters that are part of the Milky Way, the red stars in this image are some of the oldest stars in our galaxy. 

Astrophysicists study globular clusters in order to learn more about the early stages of the formation and evolution of the Milky Way. It also allows them to understand more about the formation and evolution of galaxies around the cosmos in general.

Astronomers also detect X-ray sources in Terzan 1, they believe emanate from binary star systems containing a dense neutron star and a normal star. They are currently studying these sources to understand and learn more about X-ray emissions and binary star systems.

Take the amazing journey of the Hubble Space Telescope here

Learn more about the Milky Way, the galaxy you live in, here.

Learn more about globular clusters here.

Read about the things astronomers have discovered about binary star systems here.

Read about the youngest, nearest black hole discovered.

Read about mysterious ripples detected traveling through the planet-forming region of a nearby star.

Read about a magnetar detected very close to the Monster of the Milky Way.

Superstar Binaries Like Eta Carinae More Common Than First Thought

Astronomers using NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes discovered similar superstar binaries in four nearby galaxies

Eta Carinae's great eruption in the 1840s created the billowing Homunculus Nebula, imaged here by Hubble, and transformed the binary into a unique object in our galaxy. Astronomers cannot yet explain what caused this eruption. The discovery of likely Eta Carinae twins in other galaxies will help scientists better understand this brief phase in the life of a massive star. Credits: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team
Eta Carinae’s great eruption in the 1840s created the billowing Homunculus Nebula, imaged here by Hubble, and transformed the binary into a unique object in our galaxy. Astronomers cannot yet explain what caused this eruption. The discovery of likely Eta Carinae twins in other galaxies will help scientists better understand this brief phase in the life of a massive star.
Credits: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team

Space news (February 15, 2016) – 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation of Carina

Astronomers combing through data provided by the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes looking for superstar binaries like Eta Carinae think they have finally found a few additional instances in nearby galaxies. 

The signature balloon-shaped clouds of gas blown from a pair of massive stars called Eta Carinae have tantalized astronomers for decades. Eta Carinae has a volatile temperament, prone to violent outbursts over the past 200 years. Observations by the newly repaired Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) aboard NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope reveal some of the chemical elements that were ejected in the eruption seen in the middle of the 19th century. Image credit: NASA/ESA
The signature balloon-shaped clouds of gas blown from a pair of massive stars called Eta Carinae have tantalized astronomers for decades. Eta Carinae has a volatile temperament, prone to violent outbursts over the past 200 years.
Observations by the newly repaired Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) aboard NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope reveal some of the chemical elements that were ejected in the eruption seen in the middle of the 19th century.
Image credit: NASA/ESA

We knew others were out there,” said co-investigator Krzysztof Stanek, a professor of astronomy at Ohio State University in Columbus. “It was really a matter of figuring out what to look for and of being persistent.

Astrophysicists had previously conducted a survey of data on seven galaxies provided by the pair of space telescopes between 2012-2014. During this extensive study of the data, scientists found no superstar binaries similar to Eta Carinae. They determined they needed to devise a more sensitive way to identify possible candidates. 

Astronomers devised an optical and infrared fingerprint to detect and identify these five superstar binaries similar to Eta Carinae. With Spitzer we see a steady increase in brightness starting at around 3 microns and peaking between 8 and 24 microns,” explained Khan. “By comparing this emission to the dimming we see in Hubble’s optical images, we could determine how much dust was present and compare it to the amount we see around Eta Carinae.

During the follow-up survey conducted in 2015, astronomers discovered data indicating the existence of five superstar binaries similar to Eta Carinae in four nearby galaxies. 

The nearby spiral galaxy M83 is currently the only one known to host two potential Eta Carinae twins. This composite of images from the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 instrument shows a galaxy ablaze with newly formed stars. A high rate of star formation increases the chances of finding massive stars that have recently undergone an Eta Carinae-like outburst. Bottom: Insets zoom into Hubble data to show the locations of M83's Eta twins. Credits: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) and R. Khan (GSFC and ORAU)
The nearby spiral galaxy M83 is currently the only one known to host two potential Eta Carinae twins. This composite of images from the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 instrument shows a galaxy ablaze with newly formed stars. A high rate of star formation increases the chances of finding massive stars that have recently undergone an Eta Carinae-like outburst. Bottom: Insets zoom into Hubble data to show the locations of M83’s Eta twins.
Credits: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) and R. Khan (GSFC and ORAU)

In nearby galaxy M83, just 15 million light-years away, astronomers discovered two superstar binaries similar to Eta Carinae. They also found one superstar binary each in NGC 6946, M101 and M51, located between 18-26 million light-years away.

Researchers found likely Eta twins in four galaxies by comparing the infrared and optical brightness of each candidate source. Infrared images from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope revealed the presence of warm dust surrounding the stars. Comparing this information with the brightness of each source at optical and near-infrared wavelengths as measured by instruments on Hubble, the team was able to identify candidate Eta Carinae-like objects. Top: 3.6-micron images of candidate Eta twins from Spitzer's IRAC instrument. Bottom: 800-nanometer images of the same sources from various Hubble instruments. Credits: NASA, ESA, and R. Khan (GSFC and ORAU)
Researchers found likely Eta twins in four galaxies by comparing the infrared and optical brightness of each candidate source. Infrared images from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope revealed the presence of warm dust surrounding the stars. Comparing this information with the brightness of each source at optical and near-infrared wavelengths as measured by instruments on Hubble, the team was able to identify candidate Eta Carinae-like objects. Top: 3.6-micron images of candidate Eta twins from Spitzer’s IRAC instrument. Bottom: 800-nanometer images of the same sources from various Hubble instruments.
Credits: NASA, ESA, and R. Khan (GSFC and ORAU)

An additional study indicates each of these five candidates has the same optical and infrared fingerprint as Eta Carinae. Astronomers think within each a high mass star is buried in five to ten solar masses of gas and dust, like Eta Carinae. 

More study’s needed

They plan additional study of these five candidate superstar binaries similar to Eta Carinae, to determine if they’re indeed what they were looking for. The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, late in 2018, will enable additional and better study of these five possible superstar binaries. 

The James Webb Telescope’s Mid-infrared instrument (MIRI) has ten times the angular resolution of the Spitzer Space Telescope. It’s also most sensitive to the wavelengths needed to detect superstar binaries at their brightest. 

Combined with Webb’s larger primary mirror, MIRI will enable astronomers to better study these rare stellar laboratories and to find additional sources in this fascinating phase of stellar evolution,” said Sonneborn, NASA’s project scientist for Webb telescope operations. It will take Webb observations to confirm the Eta twins as true relatives of Eta Carinae.

Take the journey of the Spitzer Space Telescope here.

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Discover Eta Carinae here.

Read about astronomers witnessing the first moments of a rare, newborn supernovae.

Learn more about US congress recognizing the right of US citizens to own asteroid resources.

Are you one of the millions of earthlings thinking about moving to Mars in the near future.

NASA’s NuSTAR Studies X-ray Sources in Andromeda to Learn More About Distant Galaxies

Astronomers study 40 X-ray binaries comprised of black hole or neutron star feeding on material from companion star

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscope Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has imaged a swath of the Andromeda galaxy -- the nearest large galaxy to our own Milky Way galaxy.
NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscope Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has imaged a swath of the Andromeda galaxy — the nearest large galaxy to our own Milky Way galaxy.

Space news (February 05, 2016) – 2.5 million light-years away in Andromeda –

Astronomers using NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) to study 40 X-ray binaries in Andromeda Galaxy (M31). Astrophysicists study the critical role these energetic, intense sources of X-rays could have played in heating the intergalactic gasses in which the first galaxies were born. A study expected to help scientists view more distant galaxies and develop current and new theories on cosmic evolution. 

NASA's NuSTAR spacecraft scans the universe.
NASA’s NuSTAR spacecraft scans the universe looking for X-ray binaries and other anomalies.

Andromeda is the only large spiral galaxy where we can see individual X-ray binaries and study them in detail in an environment like our own,” said Daniel Wik of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who presented the results at the 227th meeting of American Astronomical Society in Kissimmee, Florida.­­­­ “We can then use this information to deduce what’s going on in more distant galaxies, which are harder to see.”

Andromeda and the Milky Way are fated to collide billions of years in the future, which will disrupt their spiral structures. Andromeda is slightly bigger than our home galaxy and is viewable from Earth by the naked human eye on dark, clear nights. The galaxy that results from their fated meeting in the dark of space will look nothing like the pair as we see them now. Watch this video on the Hubble site called “Clash of the Titans: Milky Way & Andromeda Collision“.

Study continues

Astronomers are currently going over the data obtained through their use of NuSTAR to study the 40 X-ray binaries in Andromeda. Astrophysicists are identifying the fraction containing black holes as compared to neutron stars in order to better understand X-ray binaries as a whole. 

We have come to realize in the past few years that it is likely the lower-mass remnants of normal stellar evolution, the black holes, and neutron stars, may play a crucial role in heating of the intergalactic gas at very early times in the universe, around the cosmic dawn,” said Ann Hornschemeier of NASA Goddard, the principal investigator of the NuSTAR Andromeda studies. 

She continued, “Observations of local populations of stellar-mass-sized black holes and neutron stars with NuSTAR allow us to figure out just how much power is coming out from these systems. The new research also reveals how Andromeda may differ from our Milky Way. 

Fiona Harrison, the principal investigator of the NuSTAR mission, added, “Studying the extreme stellar populations in Andromeda tells us about how its history of forming stars may be different than in our neighborhood.”

You can learn more about the mission of NASA’s NuSTAR here

Discover the history and future plans of NASA here.

Learn more about Andromeda galaxy here.

Learn more about the Milky Way here.

Learn about the mysteries surrounding X-ray binaries here.

Read about events astronomers detect happening near young, newly-formed star system Dl Cha.

Read about the coming to life of the Monster of the Milky Way.

Learn more about Pluto and New Horizons spacecraft.

Lenticular Galaxy Mrk 820

Hints of a spiral structure embedded in a circular halo of stars

Sprinkled throughout this stunning image are numerous examples of almost every type of galaxy on the Hubble Tuning Fork. Almost all of the light smears and specks viewed are distant galaxies astronomers study in order to delve deeper into the mysteries of the evolution of these islands of stars.
Sprinkled throughout this stunning image are numerous examples of almost every type of galaxy on the Hubble Tuning Fork. Almost all of the light smears and specks viewed are distant galaxies astronomers study in order to delve deeper into the mysteries of the evolution of these islands of stars.

Space news (February 1, 2016) – 300 million light-years away in the Bootes constellation –

Astronomers use the Hubble Tuning Fork to classify galaxies viewed during the human journey to the beginning of space and time according to their morphology. Devised by noted astronomer Edwin Hubble during the early part of the twentieth century, this galaxy classification system breaks galaxies into two general categories; elliptical and spiral galaxies.

Island universes viewed that don’t seem to fit into the two general categories of galaxies are considered irregular galaxies. Irregular galaxies have a more varied look than the general categories, often with a spiral structure that looks disturbed or disrupted. It’s this disrupted structure, and other hints, that makes astronomers think the more chaotic and varied look of these island universes could often be due to titanic collisions between galaxies.  

The galaxy viewed in the image above is Mrk 820 (also LEDA 52404 or IRAS F14379+3142), a lenticular galaxy in the transition zone between the two general categories of galaxies (Type S0). Astronomers looking closer at his spectacular island universe believe it shows hints of spiral arms imprinted on a halo of stars, which is unusual for lenticular galaxies. Lenticular galaxies generally have a notable central bulge and disk, but no spiral arms.  

Learn more about the history and future plans of NASA here.

Discover Edwin Hubble here.

Learn more about galaxy classification and the Hubble Tuning Fork here.

Read about swirls detected forming in the disk of dust surrounding infant suns.

Read about mysterious ripples detected moving across the planet forming region of a distant, young sun.

Read about US congress recognizing right of US citizens to own asteroid resources.