Images: NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory/Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

Cambridge Science Festival is pleased to collaborate with the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for our 2019 print materials and online imagery. Many thanks to the Chandra X-ray Center team for their generosity and support!

All images are courtesy of NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory/Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

In 2019, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory celebrates its 20th year in space exploring the Universe. In these past two decades, Chandra has made profound discoveries and contributed invaluable information about the cosmos and the wondrous objects within it. In its 20 years of operation, Chandra and X-ray astronomy as a whole have played a pivotal role in uncovering and solving the mysteries of the Universe. We look forward to what the next years may bring.

The Chandra X-ray Observatory Center (CXC) is operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in Cambridge, MA, for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). 

The Eagle Nebula (M16): “X”-ploring the Eagle Nebula and “Pillars of Creation”

The Eagle Nebula, also known as Messier 16, contains the young star cluster NGC 6611. It also the site of the spectacular star-forming region known as the Pillars of Creation, which is located in the southern portion of the Eagle Nebula.
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/INAF/M.Guarcello et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI

Perseus Cluster: Scientists Find Giant Wave Rolling through the Perseus Galaxy Cluster

Combining data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory with radio observations and computer simulations, scientists have found a vast wave of hot gas in the Perseus galaxy cluster. Spanning some 200,000 light years, the wave is about twice the size of the Milky Way galaxy.

Researchers think the wave formed billions of years ago after a small galaxy cluster grazed Perseus and caused its vast supply of gas to slosh around in an enormous volume of space.
Image Credit: NASA/CXC/GSFC/S.A.Walker, et al.

NGC 1929 in N44: A Surprisingly Bright Superbubble

NGC 1929 in N44: A Surprisingly Bright Superbubble

This composite image shows a superbubble in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a small satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, located about 160,000 light years from Earth. Many new stars, some of them very massive, are forming in the star cluster NGC 1929, which is embedded in the nebula N44. The massive stars produce intense radiation, expel matter at high speeds, and race through their evolution to explode as supernovas.
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/U.Mich./S.Oey, IR: NASA/JPL, Optical: ESO/WFI/2.2-m

Tycho's Supernova Remnant: NASA'S Chandra Finds New Evidence on Origin of Supernovas

Tycho’s Supernova Remnant: NASA’S Chandra Finds New Evidence on Origin of Supernovas

This new image of Tycho’s supernova remnant, dubbed Tycho for short, contains striking new evidence for what triggered the original supernova explosion, as seen from Earth in 1572. Tycho was formed by a Type Ia supernova, a category of stellar explosion used in measuring astronomical distances because of their reliable brightness.
Image Credit: NASA/CXC/Chinese Academy of Sciences/F. Lu et al

Sagittarius A*: Record-Breaking Outburst from Milky Way's Black Hole

Sagittarius A*: Record-Breaking Outburst from Milky Way’s Black Hole

Astronomers have long known that the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, known as Sagittarius A* (or Sgr A* for short), is a particularly poor eater. The fuel for this black hole comes from powerful winds blown off dozens of massive young stars that are concentrated nearby. These stars are located a relatively large distance away from Sgr A*, where the gravity of the black hole is weak, and so their high-velocity winds are difficult for the black hole to capture and swallow. Scientists have previously calculated that Sgr A* should consume only about 1% of the fuel carried in the winds.
Image Credit: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Wisconsin/Y.Bai, et al.

Rosette Nebula: The Heart of a Rose

This composite image shows the Rosette star formation region, located about 5,000 light years from Earth. Data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory are colored red. The X-rays reveal hundreds of young stars clustered in the center of the image and additional fainter clusters on either side. Optical data from the Digitized Sky Survey and the Kitt Peak National Observatory (purple, orange, green and blue) show large areas of gas and dust, including giant pillars that remain behind after intense radiation from massive stars has eroded the more diffuse gas.
Image Credit: X-ray (NASA/CXC/SAO/J. Wang et al), Optical (DSS & NOAO/AURA/NSF/KPNO 0.9-m/T. Rector et al)

RCW 103: Young Magnetar Likely the Slowest Pulsar Ever Detected

Using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other X-ray observatories, astronomers have found evidence for what is likely one of the most extreme pulsars, or rotating neutron stars, ever detected. The source exhibits properties of a highly magnetized neutron star, or magnetar, yet its deduced spin period is thousands of times longer than any pulsar ever observed.
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/University of Amsterdam/N.Rea et al; Optical: DSS

Tarantula Nebula: The Growing Tarantula Within

Tarantula Nebula: The Growing Tarantula Within

The star-forming region, 30 Doradus, is one of the largest located close to the Milky Way and is found in the neighboring galaxy Large Magellanic Cloud. About 2,400 massive stars in the center of 30 Doradus, also known as the Tarantula Nebula, are producing intense radiation and powerful winds as they blow off material.
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/PSU/L.Townsley et al.; Infrared: NASA/JPL/PSU/L.Townsley et al.

Cassiopeia A: Chandra Reveals the Elementary Nature of Cassiopeia A

Cassiopeia A: Chandra Reveals the Elementary Nature of Cassiopeia A

Due to its unique evolutionary status, Cassiopeia A (Cas A) is one of the most intensely studied of these supernova remnants. A new image from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory shows the location of different elements in the remains of the explosion: silicon (red), sulfur (yellow), calcium (green) and iron (purple). Each of these elements produces X-rays within narrow energy ranges, allowing maps of their location to be created. The blast wave from the explosion is seen as the blue outer ring.
Image Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO

Antennae: A Galactic Spectacle

Antennae: A Galactic Spectacle

A beautiful new image of two colliding galaxies has been released by NASA’s Great Observatories. The Antennae galaxies, located about 62 million light years from Earth, are shown in this composite image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue), the Hubble Space Telescope (gold and brown), and the Spitzer Space Telescope (red). The Antennae galaxies take their name from the long antenna-like “arms,” seen in wide-angle views of the system. These features were produced by tidal forces generated in the collision.
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/J.DePasquale; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Optical: NASA/STScI

Centaurus A: Black Hole Outflows From Centaurus A

Centaurus A: Black Hole Outflows From Centaurus A

This image of Centaurus A shows a spectacular new view of a supermassive black hole’s power. Jets and lobes powered by the central black hole in this nearby galaxy are shown by submillimeter data (colored orange) from the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope in Chile and X-ray data (colored blue) from the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Visible light data from the Wide Field Imager on the Max-Planck/ESO 2.2 m telescope, also located in Chile, shows the dust lane in the galaxy and background stars. The X-ray jet in the upper left extends for about 13,000 light years away from the black hole. The APEX data shows that material in the jet is travelling at about half the speed of light.
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al.; Submillimeter: MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al.; Optical: ESO/WFI

NGC 1068: How Black Holes May Shape Galaxies

NGC 1068: Winds of Change: How Black Holes May Shape Galaxies

This is a composite image of NGC 1068, one of the nearest and brightest galaxies containing a rapidly growing supermassive black hole. X-ray data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory are shown in red, optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope in green and radio data from the Very Large Array in blue. The spiral structure of NGC 1068 is shown by the X-ray and optical data, and a jet powered by the central supermassive black hole is shown by the radio data.
Image Credit: X-ray (NASA/CXC/MIT/C.Canizares, D.Evans et al), Optical (NASA/STScI), Radio (NSF/NRAO/VLA)

Crab Nebula: Dead Star Creates Celestial Havoc

A star’s spectacular death in the constellation Taurus was observed on Earth as the supernova of 1054 A.D. Now, almost a thousand years later, a super dense object — called a neutron star — left behind by the explosion is seen spewing out a blizzard of high-energy particles into the expanding debris field known as the Crab Nebula. X-ray data from Chandra provide significant clues to the workings of this mighty cosmic “generator,” which is producing energy at the rate of 100,000 suns.
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/F.Seward; Optical: NASA/ESA/ASU/J.Hester & A.Loll; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. Minn./R.Gehrz

G299.2-2.9: Exploded Star Blooms Like a Cosmic Flower

G299.2-2.9: Exploded Star Blooms Like a Cosmic Flower

Because the debris fields of exploded stars, known as supernova remnants, are very hot, energetic, and glow brightly in X-ray light, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has proven to be a valuable tool in studying them. The supernova remnant called G299.2-2.9 (or G299 for short) is located within our Milky Way galaxy, but Chandra’s new image of it is reminiscent of a beautiful flower here on Earth.
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/U.Texas/S.Post et al, Infrared: 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSF

Center of the Milky Way: NASA's Great Observatories Examine the Galactic Center Region

Center of the Milky Way: NASA’s Great Observatories Examine the Galactic Center Region

In this spectacular image, observations using infrared light and X-ray light see through the obscuring dust and reveal the intense activity near the galactic core. Note that the center of the galaxy is located within the bright white region to the right of and just below the middle of the image. The entire image width covers about one-half a degree, about the same angular width as the full moon.
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/UMass/D. Wang et al.; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI/D.Wang et al.; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSC/S.Stolovy

Cygnus OB2: Probing a Nearby Stellar Cradle

Cygnus OB2: Probing a Nearby Stellar Cradle

The Milky Way and other galaxies in the universe harbor many young star clusters and associations that each contain hundreds to thousands of hot, massive, young stars known as O and B stars. The star cluster Cygnus OB2 contains more than 60 O-type stars and about a thousand B-type stars. At a relatively nearby distance to Earth of about 5,000 light years, Cygnus OB2 is the closest massive cluster.
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/J.Drake et al, Optical: Univ. of Hertfordshire/INT/IPHAS, Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech

M82: Suspected Black Hole Unmasked as Ultraluminous Pulsar

An Ultraluminous X-ray Source (ULX) that astronomers had thought was a black hole is really the brightest pulsar ever recorded. ULXs are objects that produce more X-rays than most “normal” X-ray binary systems, in which a star is orbiting a neutron star or a stellar-mass black hole. Black holes in these X-ray binary systems generally weigh about five to thirty times the mass of the sun.
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Toulouse/M.Bachetti et al, Optical: NOAO/AURA/NSF

NGC 2207 and IC 2163: Galactic Get-Together has Impressive Light Display

NGC 2207 and IC 2163: Galactic Get-Together has Impressive Light Display

Located about 130 million light years from Earth, in the constellation of Canis Major, this pair of spiral galaxies has been caught in a grazing encounter. NGC 2207 and IC 2163 have hosted three supernova explosions in the past 15 years and have produced one of the most bountiful collections of super bright X-ray lights known.
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/S.Mineo et al, Optical: NASA/STScI, Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Puppis A: An X-ray Tapestry

The destructive results of a powerful supernova explosion reveal themselves in a delicate tapestry of X-ray light, as seen in this image from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton.
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/IAFE/G.Dubner et al & ESA/XMM-Newton

GK Persei: "Mini Supernova" Explosion Could Have Big Impact

GK Persei: “Mini Supernova” Explosion Could Have Big Impact

A team of researchers pointed the telescope at GK Persei, an object that became a sensation in the astronomical world in 1901 when it suddenly appeared as one of the brightest stars in the sky for a few days, before gradually fading away in brightness. Today, astronomers cite GK Persei as an example of a “classical nova,” an outburst produced by a thermonuclear explosion on the surface of a white dwarf star, the dense remnant of a Sun-like star.
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/RIKEN/D.Takei et al; Optical: NASA/STScI; Radio: NRAO/VLA

Circinus X-1: X-ray Echoes Pinpoint Location of Distant Flaring Neutron Star

Circinus X-1: X-ray Echoes Pinpoint Location of Distant Flaring Neutron Star

The object is Circinus X-1, containing a neutron star – the collapsed core left behind after a star exploded – in orbit with a massive star. The Chandra data reveal a set of four rings that appear as circles around Circinus X-1. These rings can be seen in the composite image where X-rays from Chandra are red, green, and blue corresponding to low, medium, and high-energy X-rays respectively, which have been combined with a view in visible light from the Digitized Sky Survey.
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison/S.Heinz et al; Optical: DSS

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