Binary Star System V404 Cygni Flares to Life

Forming rings of X-ray light that expand with time, creating a shooting target effect 

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Rings of X-ray light centered on V404 Cygni, a binary system containing an erupting black hole (dot at center), were imaged by the X-ray Telescope aboard NASA’s Swift satellite from June 30 to July 4. A narrow gap splits the middle ring in two. Color indicates the energy of the X-rays, with red representing the lowest (800 to 1,500 electron volts, eV), green for medium (1,500 to 2,500 eV), and the most energetic (2,500 to 5,000 eV) shown in blue. For comparison, visible light has energies ranging from about 2 to 3 eV. The dark lines running diagonally through the image are artifacts of the imaging system. Credits: Andrew Beardmore (Univ. of Leicester) and NASA/Swift

Space news (astrophysics: binary star systems; black hole/sun-like star systems) – 8,000 light-years away toward the constellation Cygnus, next to flaring 10 solar mass black hole – 

It all started just before 2:32 p.m. on June 15, 2015, when NASA’s Swift X-ray Burst Alert Satellite detected a rising wave of high-speed, extremely-energetic X-rays emanating from the direction of the constellation Cygnus. Additional detections of the same flare ten minutes later by a Japanese experiment on the International Space Station called the Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image (MAXI) and other detectors. Allowed astronomers to determine the outburst detected originated 8,000 light-years away in low-mass X-ray binary V404 Cygni, where previous data indicated a stellar-mass black hole and sun-like star orbited each other. A black hole and sun-like star binary system that up to this point had been sleeping since its last outburst in 1989. 

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The Swift X-ray image of V404 Cygni covers a patch of the sky equal to about half the apparent diameter of the full moon. This image shows the rings as they appeared on June 30. Credits: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio (left), Andrew Beardmore (Univ. of Leicester); NASA/Swift (right)

Fifteen days later on June 30, a team of scientists from around the world led by Andrew Beardmore of the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom investigated V404 Cygni a little closer using NASA’s Swift X-ray Burst Alert Satellite. Images taken (above) revealed a series of concentric rings of X-ray light centered on a 10 solar mass black hole (dot at the center of image). 

On the left, an optical image from the Digitized Sky Survey shows Cygnus X-1, outlined in a red box. Cygnus X-1 is located near large active regions of star formation in the Milky Way, as seen in this image that spans some 700 light years across. An artist's illustration on the right depicts what astronomers think is happening within the Cygnus X-1 system. Cygnus X-1 is a so-called stellar-mass black hole, a class of black holes that comes from the collapse of a massive star. The black hole pulls material from a massive, blue companion star toward it. This material forms a disk (shown in red and orange) that rotates around the black hole before falling into it or being redirected away from the black hole in the form of powerful jets.
On the left, an optical image from the Digitized Sky Survey shows Cygnus X-1, outlined in a red box. Cygnus X-1 is located near large active regions of star formation in the Milky Way, as seen in this image that spans some 700 light years across. An artist’s illustration on the right depicts what astronomers think is happening within the Cygnus X-1 system. Cygnus X-1 is a so-called stellar-mass black hole, a class of black holes that comes from the collapse of a massive star. The black hole pulls material from a massive, blue companion star toward it. This material forms a disk (shown in red and orange) that rotates around the black hole before falling into it or being redirected away from the black hole in the form of powerful jets.

Astronomers believe the x-ray rings are the result of echoing x-ray light from a large flare on June 26, 2016, at 1:40 p.m. EDT. The flare emitted x-rays in all directions. Multiple dust layers at around 4,000 and 1,000 light-years from V404 Cygni reflected some of these x-rays towards Earth. This reflected light travels a greater distance and reaches us slightly later than light traveling a straighter path. The small time difference produced an x-ray echo, formed x-ray rings expanding in spacetime.  

“The flexible planning of Swift observations has given us the best dust-scattered X-ray ring images ever seen,” Beardmore said. “With these observations, we can make a detailed study of the normally invisible interstellar dust in the direction of this black hole.” 

What’s next?

The team is currently watching V404 Cygni, waiting for its next outburst, and preparing Swift to collect additional data to determine exactly what’s going on here. They hope to hit the bulls eye in human understanding of the collection on x-ray sources detected across the cosmos. Regular monitoring of this binary system using a suite of telescopes and instruments could give us clues to how a stellar-mass black hole and sun-like star end up orbiting each other. About the origin and formation of the unusual types of binary systems detected during the human journey to the beginning of space and time. 

Watch this YouTube video on the flaring of V404 Cygni.

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Discover V404 Cygni

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Read more about the Japanese experiment Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image (MAXI)

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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.

Young, Newly Formed Dl Cha Star System Gives Astronomers View of Star Formation Processes at Work

Two stars shine brightly through a ring of swirling dust and gas

Two stars shine through the centre of a ring of cascading dust in this image taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The star system is named DI Cha, and while only two stars are apparent, it is actually a quadruple system containing two sets of binary stars. As this is a relatively young star system it is surrounded by dust. The young stars are moulding the dust into a wispy wrap. The host of this alluring interaction between dust and star is the Chamaeleon I dark cloud — one of three such clouds that comprise a large star-forming region known as the Chamaeleon Complex. DI Cha's juvenility is not remarkable within this region. In fact, the entire system is among not only the youngest but also the closest collections of newly formed stars to be found and so provides an ideal target for studies of star formation.
Two stars shine through the centre of a ring of cascading dust in this image taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Space news (November 04, 2015) – approximately 160 parsecs from Earth in the Chamaeleon I Dark Cloud –

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope recently viewed one of the youngest and closest star systems found during the human journey to the beginning of space and time. Star system Dl Cha is a young quadruple system of suns deep within the Chamaeleon Complex, a mysterious region of space comprised of three clouds of gas and dust. Composed of two binary star systems, Dl Cha is one of the best young systems to study to learn more about star formation because of its youth and nearness to Sol.

A photogenic group of nebulae can be found toward Chamaeleon, a constellation visible predominantly in skies south of the Earth's equator. Celestial objects visible there include the blue reflection nebulas highlighted by thin dust surrounding the bright stars in the above image center. Toward the top and lower right, dark molecular clouds laced with thick dust block light from stars in the background. The parent molecular cloud Chamaeleon I is located about 450 light years from Earth.
A photogenic group of nebulae can be found toward Chamaeleon, a constellation visible predominantly in skies south of the Earth’s equator.

Dl Cha is located in Chamaeleon I Dark Cloud, one of the closest star-forming regions to Earth, with as many as 200-300 young suns. Newly-formed suns that mold the dust and gas in the surrounding region into a spiraling wrap enveloping Dl Cha in a light-absorbing shroud. A shroud of gas and dust scientists are peering through using the latest ground and space telescopes to learn more about the processes the cosmos uses to create new stars. 

The Chamaeleon I Dark Cloud contains 70-90 mysterious X-ray sources, including Cha Halpha, the first X-ray emitting brown dwarf ever located. As the gas and dust swirls and moves in this region of space, more young stars will be viewed, and the veil surrounding the mystery of these X-ray sources and star formation lifted. A veil lifting astronomers expect to reveal more cosmic mysteries as the human journey to the beginning of space and time unfolds. 

You can learn more about star formation in the cosmos here.

Discover NASA’s mission to the stars here.

Take the journey of the Hubble Space Telescope here.

Learn more about the Chamaeleon Complex and the Chamaeleon I Dark Cloud here.

Read about the Twin Jet Nebula, a truly stunning celestial object with the wings of a butterfly.

Learn about the discoveries made of Pluto and its moons by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft.

Learn more about main sequence stars like our own Sun.

Astronomers Use to Think Red Dwarf Stars Only Exhibited Major Stellar Flares for a Period of a Day Maximum

Until NASA’s Swift Gamma-ray Burst Space Observatory detected a sequence of seven stellar flares over 10,000 times more powerful than the biggest ever recorded erupting from a red dwarf star in the binary system DG CVn 

DG CVn, a binary consisting of two red dwarf stars shown here in an artist's rendering, unleashed a series of powerful flares seen by NASA's Swift. At its peak, the initial flare was brighter in X-rays than the combined light from both stars at all wavelengths under typical conditions. Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger
DG CVn, a binary consisting of two red dwarf stars shown here in an artist’s rendering, unleashed a series of powerful flares seen by NASA’s Swift. At its peak, the initial flare was brighter in X-rays than the combined light from both stars at all wavelengths under typical conditions.
Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger

Space news ( Oct. 30, 2014) – astrophysics: gamma-ray bursts; seven of the most intense, powerful gamma-ray bursts ever detected –

NASA space scientists operating NASA’s Swift Gamma-ray Burst Space Observatory detected a sequence of seven of the most intense, powerful, and long-lasting stellar flares ever seen at 5:07 p.m EDT on April 23, 2014. You can watch a video of the event here. They believe the gamma-rays detected are from stellar flares erupting from the surface of one of a pair of red dwarf stars 60 light-years away in the binary star system DG Canum Venaticorum (DG CVn). They are currently scratching their heads and rethinking theories on the intensity, power, and length of time of major stellar flaring episodes exhibited by red dwarf stars.

“For about three minutes after the BAT trigger, the superflare’s X-ray brightness was greater than the combined luminosity of both stars at all wavelengths under normal conditions,” noted Goddard’s Adam Kowalski, who is leading a detailed study on the event. “Flares this large from red dwarfs are exceedingly rare.”

“We used to think major flaring episodes from red dwarfs lasted no more than a day, but Swift detected at least seven powerful eruptions over a period of about two weeks,” said Stephen Drake, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who gave a presentation on the “superflare” at the August meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s High Energy Astrophysics Division. “This was a very complex event.”

At peak power and intensity, space scientist Rachael Osten of the Space Telescope Institute and Stephen Drake of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center indicate this sequence of stellar flares reached 360 million degrees Fahrenheit (200 million Celsius), which is over 12 times hotter than the center of our own sun. Currently, they’re trying to figure out which of the pair of red dwarf stars is the source of the sequence of seven stellar flares they observed.

Space scientists indicate the problem is the pair of red dwarf suns in this binary star system are only about three times the distance apart as the average distance of Earth from the sun. This is too close for instruments to determine which red dwarf star is the culprit in this case.

“This system is poorly studied because it wasn’t on our watch list of stars capable of producing large flares,” said Rachel Osten, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore and a deputy project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, now under construction. “We had no idea DG CVn had this in it.”

What’s next?

NASA space scientists will now turn their attention to stars within 100 light-years of DG DVn. The majority of these suns are middle-aged, like our own sun, but there are over a thousand young red dwarf stars drifting through this region of space. Studying red dwarf suns of the same age as DG CVn (around 30 million years) will allow the best opportunity to observe similar stellar flares as the seven seen recently. They also plan to keep an eye on DG CVn using the Swift Gamma-ray Burst Explorer in case it unleashes similar stellar flares in the future.

For more information on the Swift Gamma-ray Burst Explorer visit.

You can find more information on NASA and red dwarf stars here.

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