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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

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is 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.

    LC

  • 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.

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