Sunday, February 13, 2011

Not The Ring I Was Expecting to Post

I was hoping to have an image from last night's observing session of Saturn ready for posting, and have a write up to go along with it. Larry (the guy from the club who does most of the image processing) is still working on it, but it sounds like our goal was at least partially achieved, the processing has just been difficult. Hopefully I'll have an image tonight or tomorrow, and then can share that.

In addition to that, The HCAS open house last night went pretty well. We a couple of scout troops that came out, and they seemed really enthusiastic and everyone had a good time despite the cold weather. I know I always enjoy it when the kids are enthusiastic and have more questions to ask.

And in lieu of not having Saturn, with its beautiful rings and chaotic storm, I bring you another story of a beautiful ring and chaos. The Chandra X-Ray Observatory (one of NASA's wonderful satellites and the flagship for X-ray astronomy) has captured an image of a giant ring of black holes.

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MIT/S.Rappaport et al, Optical: NASA/STScI 

Above is a composite image of Arp 147, a pair of galaxies that collided. It is a composite of optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope and X-ray data from Chandra (the pink blobs). On the right are the remains of a spiral galaxy that collided with the elliptical galaxy on the left. When they collided, a whole bunch of dust would have been compressed, starting a wave of star formation throughout the spiral galaxy, creating massive young stars, seen as the blue ring in the image. These stars have relatively short life spans of a few million years, eventually blowing up into supernovas that leave behind neutron stars and blacks holes.

In the blue ring, you can see the nine pink blobs. Those are X-ray sources observed by Chandra that are so bright, they must be black holes, each about ten to twenty times more massive then our Sun. All in all, it is a beautiful sight, and an amazing formation to discover in our universe. Other elements in the picture include a foreground star in the lower left, and a quasar up and to the left of the elliptical galaxy. There is more info in the Chandra press release linked above.


Anonymous said...

The universe is amazing. I wish we were out there exploring it instead of simply gazing at its wonders from afar.

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