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Arp 299 Animations
A Tour of Arp 299
(Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)
[Runtime: 02:52]

Quicktime MPEG With closed-captions (at YouTube)

What would happen if you took two galaxies and mixed them together over millions of years? A new study using data from NASA's X-ray Observatory and other telescopes reveals the cosmic culinary outcome.

Arp 299 is a system located about 140 million light years from Earth. It contains two galaxies that are merging, creating a partially blended mix of stars from each galaxy in the process.

However, this stellar mix is not the only ingredient. Data from Chandra reveal 25 bright X-ray sources sprinkled throughout the Arp 299 concoction. Fourteen of these sources are such strong emitters of X-rays that astronomers categorize them as "ultra-luminous X-ray sources," or ULXs.

These ULXs are found embedded in regions where stars are currently forming at a rapid rate. Most likely, the ULXs are binary systems where a neutron star or black hole is pulling matter away from a companion star that is much more massive than the Sun. These double star systems are called high-mass X-ray binaries.

This buffet of high-mass X-ray binaries is one of the richest in a galaxy located in the nearby universe, but Arp 299 contains relatively powerful star formation. This is due at least in part to the merger of the two galaxies, which has triggered waves of star formation. The formation of high-mass X-ray binaries is a natural consequence of the blossoming star birth in Arp 299 as some of the young massive stars, which often form in pairs, evolve into these systems.

While Arp 299 is intriguing itself, this system also has similarities to more distant galaxies. This gives astronomers a chance to sample a local version of faraway cosmic creations, providing hints to the ingredients and recipe that created them.

A Quick Look at Arp 299
(Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)
[Runtime: 01:06]

About 140 million light years from Earth, two galaxies are colliding in Arp 299.

As they merge, shock waves rumble through each galaxy and trigger waves of new star formation.

Some of these stars are very large and live brief and violent lives.

Chandra finds over a dozen systems in Arp 299 that give off large amounts of X-rays called "ULXs".

Scientists these ULXs either contain a neutron star or black hole pulling material from a companion star.

Return to Arp 299 (June 26, 2017)