Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New X-ray source in nearby galaxy spawns mystery

11.01.2008
Astronomers studying a nearby galaxy have spied a rare type of star system -- one that contains a black hole that suddenly began glowing brightly with X-rays.

Though this type of star system is supposed to be rare, it's the second such system discovered in that galaxy, called Centaurus A.

The discovery suggests that astronomers have more to learn about the lives and deaths of massive stars in galaxies such as our own.

Normally when astronomers study Centaurus A, it's the giant X-ray jets emanating from the heart of the galaxy that steal the show, explained Gregory Sivakoff, a postdoctoral researcher in astronomy at Ohio State University. The jets extend from the galaxy for 13,000 light years in different directions.

But when his team studied Centaurus A with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory starting in March 2007, they saw a new X-ray source -- much smaller than the X-ray jets, but still glowing brightly. The source wasn't there during the last survey of the galaxy in 2003, but it shined throughout the time of the new observations, from March to May of 2007.

Because it hadn't been seen before, the astronomers classified the object as a “transient” X-ray source, meaning that the object had been there before 2007, but had only recently brightened enough to stand out.

Sivakoff discussed the results in a press briefing Wednesday, January 9, 2008 at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin, Texas.

The newly bright object, dubbed CXOU J132518.2-430304, is most likely a binary star system, the researchers concluded. The two stars likely formed at the same time, with one much more massive than the other. The more massive star evolved more quickly, and collapsed to form a black hole. It is now slowly devouring its companion. Such binary systems are thought to be extremely rare.

But this is the second bright, transient X-ray binary system discovered in Centaurus A -- and that's the problem, Sivakoff said.

“When we look at other galaxies like Centaurus A, we don't see these bright, transient X-ray binaries,” he said. “But now we've found two such objects in Centaurus A, and the implication is that we may not understand these objects as well as we thought we did.”

“So right now, our discovery is actually pointing to a puzzle rather than a solution.”

Because Centaurus A is near to our galaxy, astronomers have long hoped to use it as a Rosetta stone for studying other galaxies with black holes.

As astronomers piece together an explanation for the existence of the newly-discovered binary system, they may gain a better understanding of how black holes form from massive stars and how binary systems evolve.

“These binary systems are signposts of the massive stars that once existed in galaxies like Centaurus A. To understand the massive stars, we must first know how to read the signs,” he said.

Sivakoff and Ralph Kraft of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics led the study; their collaborators were from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Oak Ridge Associated Universities, University of Hertfordshire, University of Virginia, University of Bristol, McMaster University, and the University of Birmingham.

This research was sponsored by NASA.

Gregory Sivakoff | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Hope to discover sure signs of life on Mars? New research says look for the element vanadium
22.09.2017 | University of Kansas

nachricht Calculating quietness
22.09.2017 | Forschungszentrum MATHEON ECMath

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>