Common Chemicals Were Evenly Distributed Across the Early Cosmos

By stars that went supernovae at the end of their life cycles 

This visible light view shows the central part of the Virgo Cluster. The brightest object is the giant elliptical galaxy M87 (left of center). The image spans approximately 1.2 degrees, or about 2.4 times the apparent diameter of a full moon. Credits: NOAO/AURA/NSF Download the image in HD at NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio
This visible light view shows the central part of the Virgo Cluster. The brightest object is the giant elliptical galaxy M87 (left of center). The image spans approximately 1.2 degrees or about 2.4 times the apparent diameter of a full moon.
Credits: NOAO/AURA/NSF
Download the image in HD at NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

Space news (astrophysics: creation and distribution of heavier chemical elements; supernovae) – watching as the elements of creation were spread evenly across millions of light-years more than ten billion years ago – 

This illustration depicts the Suzaku spacecraft. Suzaku (originally known as Astro-E2) was launched July 10, 2005, and maintains a low-Earth orbit while it observes X-rays from the universe. The satellite was developed at the Japanese Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA) in collaboration with Japanese and U.S. institutions, including NASA. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
This illustration depicts the Suzaku spacecraft. Suzaku (originally known as Astro-E2) was launched July 10, 2005, and maintains a low-Earth orbit while it observes X-rays from the universe. The satellite was developed at the Japanese Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA) in collaboration with Japanese and U.S. institutions, including NASA.
Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Astronomers using Japan’s Suzaku X-ray Satellite to survey hot, x-ray emitting gas in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster over 54 million light-years away have discovered something about the early universe. The survey showed the building blocks of the cosmos needed to make the planets, stars, and living things were evenly distributed across the cosmos over 10 billion years ago.  

Suzaku mapped iron, magnesium, silicon and sulfur in four directions all across the Virgo galaxy cluster for the first time. The northern arm of the survey (top) extends 5 million light-years from M87 (center), the massive galaxy at the cluster's heart. Ratios of these elements are constant throughout the cluster, which means they were mixed well early in cosmic history. The dashed circle shows what astronomers call the virial radius, the boundary where gas clouds are just entering the cluster. Some prominent members of the cluster are labeled as well. The background image is part of the all-sky X-ray survey acquired by the German ROSAT satellite. The blue box at center indicates the area shown in the visible light image. Credits: A. Simionescu (JAXA) and Hans Boehringer (MPE) Download the graphic in HD at NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio
Suzaku mapped iron, magnesium, silicon and sulfur in four directions all across the Virgo galaxy cluster for the first time. The northern arm of the survey (top) extends 5 million light-years from M87 (center), the massive galaxy at the cluster’s heart. Ratios of these elements are constant throughout the cluster, which means they were mixed well early in cosmic history. The dashed circle shows what astronomers call the virial radius, the boundary where gas clouds are just entering the cluster. Some prominent members of the cluster are labeled as well. The background image is part of the all-sky X-ray survey acquired by the German ROSAT satellite. The blue box at center indicates the area shown in the visible light image.
Credits: A. Simionescu (JAXA) and Hans Boehringer (MPE)
Download the graphic in HD at NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

A team of astronomers led by Aurora Simionescu of Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Sagamihara acquired data of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster along four arms extending up to 5 million light-years from its center. Data they used to show the elements of creation were evenly distributed across millions of light-years early in the cosmos. 

Aurora Simionescu of Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Sagamihara Credits Image: NASA/JAXA
Aurora Simionescu of Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Sagamihara
Credits Image: NASA/JAXA

“Heavier chemical elements from carbon on up are produced and distributed into interstellar space by stars that explode as supernovae at the ends of their lifetimes,” Simionescu said. “This chemical dispersal continues at progressively larger scales through other mechanisms, such as galactic outflows, interactions and mergers with neighboring galaxies, and stripping caused by a galaxy’s motion through the hot gas filling galaxy clusters.” 

Astronomers study the distribution of the elements of creation during the early moments of the cosmos by shifting through the remains of giant stars that explode at the moment of their death supernovae. The core of a giant star born with more than eight times the mass of the Sun collapses near the end of its lifespan and then expands rapidly in an event called a core-collapse supernova. This rapid expansion scatters elements ranging from oxygen to silicon across the surrounding regions, while other types of supernovae spread elements of creation like iron and nickel across the universe. By surveying a vast region of space, like the Virgo Galaxy Cluster, scientists reconstruct how, when and where the elements of creation were created and distributed during the first moments of the universe.  

Astrophysicists believe the overall elemental composition of a large volume of space depends on the mixture of different supernovae types contributing elements. For example, they have determined the overall chemical makeup of the Sun and solar system required a combination of one Type Ia supernovae for every five core-collapse types.  

“One way to think about this is that we’re looking for the supernova recipe that produced the chemical makeup we see on much larger scales, and comparing it with the recipe for our own sun,” said co-author Norbert Werner, a researcher at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) at Stanford University in California. 

 Norbert Werner, a researcher at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) at Stanford University in California
Norbert Werner, a researcher at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) at Stanford University in California. Credits: KIPAC/NASA/Stanford University

Werner led an earlier study using Suzaku that showed iron was distributed evenly throughout the Perseus Galaxy Cluster. The new Suzuka data provided by the study led by Simionescu and her team shows iron, magnesium, silicon and sulfur spread evenly across the Virgo Galaxy Cluster. The elemental ratios obtained during the study are constant across the entire volume of the cluster and roughly consistent with the levels detected in the composition of the Sun and stars in the Milky Way. Extrapolated to the larger cosmos, scientists believe this shows the elements of creation were mixed well during the early moments of the cosmos over ten billion years ago.   

“This means that elements so important to life on Earth are available, on average, in similar relative proportions throughout the bulk of the universe,” explained Simionescu. “In other words, the chemical requirements for life are common throughout the cosmos.” 

Launched on July 10, 2005, the Suzaku mission showed us things about the universe during a space journey lasting over five times its intended lifespan, to become the longest-operating Japanese x-ray observatory in history. A space collaboration between Japan’s Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and NASA, the Suzaku X-ray Satellite scanned the x-ray cosmos until retiring from space service on August 26, 2015. Leaving a legacy of revolutionary x-ray discoveries its successor ASTRO-H (HITOMI), Japan’s sixth x-ray astronomy satellite is currently adding to since its launch in February 2016. 

What’s next?

Suzaku provided us with a decade of revolutionary measurements,” said Robert Petre, chief of Goddard’s X-ray Astrophysics Laboratory. “We’re building on that legacy right now with its successor, ASTRO-H, Japan’s sixth X-ray astronomy satellite, and we’re working toward its launch in 2016.” 

Artist concept of Hitomi Credits: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Credits: NASA/JAXA
Artist concept of Hitomi
Credits: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Credits: NASA/JAXA

Proving the saying, “Old Japanese x-ray satellites don’t retire, they sit back and keep watching the show.” 

Learn more about the birth and evolution of black holes and other stellar objects over 11 billion years ago.

Learn and understand more about the clues the Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered about the formation of the Milky Way galaxy.

Learn more about the things scientists have discovered about the crucible of the building blocks of life on Earth.

Take the space voyage of NASA here

Learn more about JAXA

Learn more about the discoveries of the Suzaku X-ray Satellite here

Read and discover more about HITOMI (ASTRO-H)

Learn more about the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) at Stanford University in California here

Discover more about the Virgo Galaxy Cluster

 

 

 

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.