Chandras image of the elliptical galaxy NGC 4697
NASA/CXC/UVa/C.Sarazin et al.)
Like ’flower power’ tattoos on aging ex-hippy baby boomers, unexpectedly large numbers of neutron stars and black holes in elliptical galaxies suggest some of these galaxies lived through a much wilder youth. The discovery by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory may require a revision of how elliptical galaxies evolved.
"For the first time, Chandra has allowed us to distinguish hundreds of star-like sources that are black holes and neutron stars in distant elliptical galaxies," said Craig Sarazin of the University of Virginia who presented his team’s findings on three elliptical galaxies, known as NGC 4697, NGC 4649, and NGC 1553, today at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Albuquerque, N.M. "The black holes and neutron stars we now see in these elliptical galaxies are reminders of their very active past."
Black holes and neutron stars are the "stellar corpses" of the brightest, most massive and short-lived stars. The presence of numerous neutron stars and black holes shows that these galaxies once contained many very bright, massive stars. This is in marked contrast to the present populations of lower-mass, faint, old stars that now dominate elliptical galaxies.
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