Telescopes Show the Milky Way's Black Hole is Ready for a Kick

Illustration of Sagittarius A*
Illustration of Sagittarius A*
Illustration Credit: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss

This artist’s illustration depicts the findings of a new study about the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy called Sagittarius A* (abbreviated as Sgr A*). As reported in our latest press release, this result found that Sgr A* is spinning so quickly that it is warping spacetime — that is, time and the three dimensions of space — so that it can look more like a football.

These results were made with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the NSF’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA). A team of researchers applied a new method that uses X-ray and radio data to determine how quickly Sgr A* is spinning based on how material is flowing towards and away from the black hole. They found Sgr A* is spinning with an angular velocity that is about 60% of the maximum possible value, and with an angular momentum of about 90% of the maximum possible value.

NASA's IXPE Helps Researchers Maximize 'Microquasar' Findings

Image of SS 433 and the Manatee Nebula
SS 433
Credit: X-ray: (IXPE): NASA/MSFC/IXPE; (Chandra): NASA/CXC/SAO; (XMM): ESA/XMM-Newton; IR: NASA/JPL/Caltech/WISE; Radio: NRAO/AUI/NSF/VLA/B. Saxton. (IR/Radio image created with data from M. Goss, et al.); Image Processing/compositing: NASA/CXC/SAO/N. Wolk & K. Arcand

This composite image of the Manatee Nebula captures the jet emanating from SS 433, a black hole pulling material inwards that is embedded in the supernova remnant which spawned it. Radio emission from the supernova remnant are blue-green, whereas the X-ray from IXPE, XMM-Newton and Chandra are highlighted in bright blue-purple and pink-white set against a backdrop of infrared data in red. The black hole emits twin jets of matter traveling in opposite directions at nearly the speed of light.

These jets distort the remnant’s shape into one astronomers dubbed the Manatee. The jets become bright about 100 light-years away from the black hole, where particles are accelerated to very high energies by shocks within the jet. The IXPE data shows that the magnetic field, which plays a key role in how particles are accelerated, is aligned parallel to the jet — aiding our understanding of how astrophysical jets accelerate these particles to high energies.

Astronomers Find Spark of Star Birth Across Billions of Years

Image of four different galaxy clusters observed for the survey
Brightest Cluster Galaxies Survey
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MIT/M. Calzadilla el al.; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI;
Image Processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/N. Wolk & J. Major

These four images represent a sample of galaxy clusters that are part of the largest and most complete study to learn what triggers stars to form in the universe’s biggest galaxies, as described in our latest press release. This research, made using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes, showed that the conditions for stellar conception in these exceptionally massive galaxies have not changed over the last ten billion years.

Galaxy clusters are the largest objects in the universe held together by gravity and contain huge amounts of hot gas seen in X-rays. This hot gas weighs several times the total mass of all the stars in all the hundreds of galaxies typically found in galaxy clusters. In the four galaxy cluster images in this graphic, X-rays from hot gas detected by Chandra are in purple and optical data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, mostly showing galaxies in the clusters, are yellow and cyan.

NASA Telescopes Chase Down "Green Monster" in Star's Debris

Image of Cassiopeia A
Cassiopeia A
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI; IR: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI/Milisavljevic et al., NASA/JPL/CalTech; Image Processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/J. Schmidt and K. Arcand

For the first time astronomers have combined data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and James Webb Space Telescope to study the well-known supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (Cas A). As described in our latest press release, this work has helped explain an unusual structure in the debris from the destroyed star called the “Green Monster”, first discovered in Webb data in April 2023. The research has also uncovered new details about the explosion that created Cas A about 340 years ago, from Earth’s perspective.

NASA Telescopes Start the Year With a Double Bang

Image of 30 Doradus B
30 Doradus B
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Penn State Univ./L. Townsley et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI/HST; Infrared: NASA/JPL/CalTech/SST; Image Processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/J. Schmidt, N. Wolk, K. Arcand

A colorful, festive image shows different types of light containing the remains of not one, but at least two, exploded stars. This supernova remnant is known as 30 Doradus B (30 Dor B for short) and is part of a larger region of space where stars have been continuously forming for the past 8 to 10 million years. It is a complex landscape of dark clouds of gas, young stars, high-energy shocks, and superheated gas, located 160,000 light-years away from Earth in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small satellite galaxy of the Milky Way.

The new image of 30 Dor B was made by combining X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (purple), optical data from the Blanco 4-meter telescope in Chile (orange and cyan), and infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (red). Optical data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope was also added in black and white to highlight sharp features in the image.

Sprightly Stars Illuminate 'Christmas Tree Cluster'

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: T.A. Rector (NRAO/AUI/NSF and NOIRLab/NSF/AURA) and B.A. Wolpa (NOIRLab/NSF/AURA); Infrared: NASA/NSF/IPAC/CalTech/Univ. of Massachusetts; Image Processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/L. Frattare & J.Major | More Images

This new image of NGC 2264, also known as the “Christmas Tree Cluster,” shows the shape of a cosmic tree with the glow of stellar lights. NGC 2264 is, in fact, a cluster of young stars — with ages between about one and five million years old — in our Milky Way about 2,500 light-years away from Earth. The stars in NGC 2264 are both smaller and larger than the Sun, ranging from some with less than a tenth the mass of the Sun to others containing about seven solar masses.

NASA's Chandra Catches Spider Pulsars Destroying Nearby Stars

Image of Omega Centauri
Omega Centauri
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/San Francisco State Univ./A. Cool et al.; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI; IR: NASA/JPL/Caltech; Image Processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/N. Wolk

A group of dead stars known as “spider pulsars” are obliterating companion stars within their reach. Data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory of the globular cluster Omega Centauri is helping astronomers understand how these spider pulsars prey on their stellar companions.

A pulsar is the spinning dense core that remains after a massive star collapses into itself to form a neutron star. Rapidly rotating neutron stars can produce beams of radiation. Like a rotating lighthouse beam, the radiation can be observed as a powerful, pulsing source of radiation, or pulsar. Some pulsars spin around dozens to hundreds of times per second, and these are known as millisecond pulsars.

Sensational New "Pro-Am" View of Cas A

Image of Cassiopeia A
Cassiopeia A
Contributors: Tim Schaeffer, William Ostling, Justin, Adrien Keijzer, Paul Kent, BTB Astroteam Brentenriegel, Steve Gill, Tino Heuberger, Nicolas Puig, Julian Shapiro, Felix Schöfbänker, Mikhail Vasilev, David Wood

In sports, the term “pro-am” refers to a competition between professional and non-professional athletes. In astronomy, there are also “pro-am” events, but these are highly collaborative and never cutthroat.

AstroBin is an image hosting platform and social network for astrophotographers (also often known as “amateur astronomers”, though their skill and expertise should never be questioned!)

NASA Telescope Data Becomes Music You Can Play

Credit: Composition: NASA/CXC/SAO/Sophie Kastner: Data: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: NASA/STScI; IR: Spitzer NASA/JPL-Caltech; Sonification: NASA/CXC/SAO/K.Arcand, SYSTEM Sounds (M. Russo, A. Santaguida); Video Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Jubett & P. David

For millennia, musicians have looked to the heavens for inspiration. Now a new collaboration is enabling actual data from NASA telescopes to be used as the basis for original music that can be played by humans.

Since 2020, the “sonification” project at NASA’s Chandra X-ray Center has translated the digital data taken by telescopes into notes and sounds. This process allows the listener to experience the data through the sense of hearing instead of seeing it as images, a more common way to present astronomical data.

A new phase of the sonification project takes the data into different territory. Working with composer Sophie Kastner, the team has developed versions of the data that can be played by musicians.

NASA Telescopes Discover Record-Breaking Black Hole

Image of UHZ1
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/Ákos Bogdán; Infrared: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI; Image Processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/L. Frattare & K. Arcand

This image contains the most distant black hole ever detected in X-rays, a result that may explain how some of the first supermassive black holes in the universe formed. As we report in our press release, this discovery was made using X-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (purple) and infrared data from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (red, green, blue).

The extremely distant black hole is located in the galaxy UHZ1 in the direction of the galaxy cluster Abell 2744. The galaxy cluster is about 3.5 billion light-years from Earth. Webb data, however, reveal that UHZ1 is much farther away than Abell 2744. At some 13.2 billion light-years away, UHZ1 is seen when the universe was only 3% of its current age.


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