Fluorescent and Starry: New Zinger Space Images From Chandra’s X-Ray Archives

by Elizabeth Howell on October 29, 2013

Composite image of NGC 6946, a spiral galaxy 22 million light years from Earth. At least eight supernova have exploded in this galaxy in the past century, including three spotted by Chandra (purple). Optical data is also visible in red, yellow and cyan from the Gemini Observatory. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MSSL/R.Soria et al, Optical: AURA/Gemini OBs

Composite image of NGC 6946, a spiral galaxy 22 million light years from Earth. At least eight supernova have exploded in this galaxy in the past century, including three spotted by Chandra (purple). Optical data is also visible in red, yellow and cyan from the Gemini Observatory. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MSSL/R.Soria et al, Optical: AURA/Gemini OBs

You know that moment when you’re flipping through old digital pictures (on your computer or phone or whatever) and you realize there are some pretty awesome ones in there that you should share on social media? The Chandra X-Ray Observatory team also decided to plumb THEIR archive of astrophysical image magic, and came up with several beauties. Such as the one above this text.

Chandra has been in space since July 23, 1999 — yes, that’s well over 14 years ago — and is considered one of NASA’s telescopes under the “Great Observatories” programs. The other telescopes, by the way, are the Hubble Space Telescope, the Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory and the Spitzer Space Telescope. Hubble and Spitzer are also still active today.

Check out more from the new set of images below. There are eight all told, representing a tiny fraction of the unprocessed thousands of images available to the public in the Chandra Source Catalog.

The Elephant Trunk Nebula (IC 1396A) in X-ray, optical and infrared light. Astronomers believe they are seeing winds from large, young stars hitting cooler gas around it, possibly triggering new starbirth. X-ray data from Chandra is in purple, with optical data (red, green and blue) and infrared (orange and cyan). Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/PSU/Getman et al, Optical: DSS, Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Elephant Trunk Nebula (IC 1396A) in X-ray, optical and infrared light. Astronomers believe they are seeing winds from large, young stars hitting cooler gas around it, possibly triggering new starbirth. X-ray data from Chandra is in purple, with optical data (red, green and blue) and infrared (orange and cyan). Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/PSU/Getman et al, Optical: DSS, Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech

3C353 looks a bit like a tadpole. In the center of this image is a galaxy powered by a supermassive black hole, which is transmitting energy across the expanse. Radiation is visible in X-rays from Chandra (purple) and radio from the Very Large Array (orange.) Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Tokyo Institute of Technology/J.Kataoka et al, Radio: NRAO/VLA

3C353 looks a bit like a tadpole. In the center of this image is a galaxy powered by a supermassive black hole, which is transmitting energy across the expanse. Radiation is visible in X-rays from Chandra (purple) and radio from the Very Large Array (orange.) Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Tokyo Institute of Technology/J.Kataoka et al, Radio: NRAO/VLA

SNR B0049-73.6 in X-ray and infrared light.  Chandra's observations (purple) revealed that the explosion seen here was likely from a star's central core collapse. Infrared data from the 2MASS survey is also visible in red, green and blue. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Drew Univ/S.Hendrick et al, Infrared: 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSF

SNR B0049-73.6 in X-ray and infrared light. Chandra’s observations (purple) revealed that the explosion seen here was likely from a star’s central core collapse. Infrared data from the 2MASS survey is also visible in red, green and blue. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Drew Univ/S.Hendrick et al, Infrared: 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSF

NGC 4945, a galaxy 13 million light years from Earth. This galaxy is similar to the Milky Way, but has a more active supermassive black hole in the center (visible in white). Chandra X-ray data is in blue, overlaid on European Space Observatory optical information. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ degli Studi Roma Tre/A.Marinucci et al, Optical: ESO/VLT & NASA/STScI

NGC 4945, a galaxy 13 million light years from Earth. This galaxy is similar to the Milky Way, but has a more active supermassive black hole in the center (visible in white). Chandra X-ray data is in blue, overlaid on European Space Observatory optical information. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ degli Studi Roma Tre/A.Marinucci et al, Optical: ESO/VLT & NASA/STScI

3C 397, sometimes called G41.1-0.3, is a supernova leftover that looks a little funny. It's possible that the shape comes from heated remains of the star's shell bump into cooler gas surrounding it. X-ray data from Chandra is purple, infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope is yellow, and optical data from the Digitized Sky Survey is in red, green and blue. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ of Manitoba/S.Safi-Harb et al, Optical: DSS, Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech

3C 397, sometimes called G41.1-0.3, is a supernova leftover that looks a little funny. It’s possible that the shape comes from heated remains of the star’s shell bump into cooler gas surrounding it. X-ray data from Chandra is purple, infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope is yellow, and optical data from the Digitized Sky Survey is in red, green and blue. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ of Manitoba/S.Safi-Harb et al, Optical: DSS, Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NGC 3576, a nebula 9,000 light-years from Earth, in X-ray (blue) and optical data. Chandra spotted evidence of strong winds coming from young stars in the nebula. Optical data from the European Space Observatory is shown in orange and yellow. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Penn State/L.Townsley et al, Optical: ESO/2.2m telescope

NGC 3576, a nebula 9,000 light-years from Earth, in X-ray (blue) and optical data. Chandra spotted evidence of strong winds coming from young stars in the nebula. Optical data from the European Space Observatory is shown in orange and yellow. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Penn State/L.Townsley et al, Optical: ESO/2.2m telescope

G266.2-1.2 in X-ray (purple) and optical light. Chandra spotted high-energy particles shooting out from this supernova leftover. The optical data comes from the Digitized Sky Survey and is available in red, green, and blue. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Morehead State Univ/T.Pannuti et al, Optical: DSS

G266.2-1.2 in X-ray (purple) and optical light. Chandra spotted high-energy particles shooting out from this supernova leftover. The optical data comes from the Digitized Sky Survey and is available in red, green, and blue. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Morehead State Univ/T.Pannuti et al, Optical: DSS

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

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