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ISS Instrument Detects X-ray Nova

Comparison of all-sky images before and after Sept. 25 when the nova was found. Credit: JAXA

An instrument on board the International Space Station has discovered an X-ray nova. The science team from the Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image (MAXI) instrument on the Exposed Facility of the Japanese Kibo reported a short-lived X-ray nova became visible in the constellation of Ophiuchus on September 25, 2010, and the MAXI team confirmed that it was an uncatalogued X-ray source. Astronomers say the outburst is likely to be from a binary system with a black hole. The nova was named “MAXI J1659-152, in honor of the MAXI instrument.

X-ray novas appear suddenly in the sky and dramatically increases in strength over a period of a few days and then decreases, with an overall lifetime of a few months. Sometimes, these elusive novas have an optical counterpart. Unlike a conventional nova, in which the compact component is a white dwarf, an X-ray nova may be caused by material falling onto a neutron star or a black hole.

ESA’s INTEGRAL gamma-ray observatory also detected hard X-ray emission from the same position, and NASA’s Swift Observatory also was alerted by the flare-up. Following the discovery, many other astronomical observatories around the world have made follow-up observations in X-ray, gamma-ray, visible, infrared, and radio wavelengths. This discovery was led by Prof. Hitoshi Nego, a member of the MAXI team.

Source: JAXA


Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today's Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT's Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Lawrence B. Crowell October 4, 2010, 5:43 PM

    It is good that some astrophysics is coming out of the ISS.


  • Don Alexander October 5, 2010, 12:20 AM

    Hm, a bit weird… Considering the source was first announced by Swift as “GRB 100925A” hours before the MAXI team published their ATel (#2873) – which actually refers to a GCN of mine in which I speculate that the source is probably Galactic in nature! :D

  • wjwbudro October 5, 2010, 6:14 PM

    Hm, Most articles describing this event reference it as “GRB 100925A/MAXI J1659-152″ and report MAXI and Swift independently reported the event.
    Per GCN 11294 “Due to an Moon observing constraint, Swift cannot slew to the BAT
    position until 13:21 UT on 2010 September 25. There will thus be no XRT
    or UVOT data for this trigger before this time.
    Maybe this is the reason MAXI got the glory.