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NASA : NASA’s Chandra Captures X-Ray Echoes Pinpointing Distant Neutron Star .-Telescopio Espacial Chandra de NASA, capta : Ecos Exacta distante estrella de neutrones
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Los anillosaparecen comocírculos alrededorCircinusX-1,un sistema de dobleestrella en elplano de nuestra galaxiaque contieneuna estrella de neutrones,la densaremanentede una estrella masivapulverizado enuna explosión de supernova.La estrella de neutronesestá en órbitacon otraestrella masiva,yestá envueltaporespesas nubes degas y polvo interestelar.CircinusX-1estambién la fuente deunasorprendentementepotente chorro departículas de alta energía.
A light echo in X-rays detected by NASA’s Chandra
X-ray Observatory has provided a rare opportunity to precisely measure
the distance to an object on the other side of the Milky Way galaxy. The
rings exceed the field-of-view of Chandra’s detectors, resulting in a
partial image of X-ray data.
Credits: NASA/CXC/U. Wisconsin/S. Heinz
Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have discovered
the largest and brightest set of rings from X-ray light echoes ever
observed. These extraordinary rings, produced by an intense flare from a
neutron star, provide astronomers a rare chance to determine how far
across the Milky Way galaxy the star is from Earth.
The rings appear as circles around Circinus X-1, a double star system
in the plane of our galaxy containing a neutron star, the dense remnant
of a massive star pulverized in a supernova explosion. The neutron star
is in orbit with another massive star, and is shrouded by thick clouds
of interstellar gas and dust. Circinus X-1 is also the source of a
surprisingly powerful jet of high-energy particles.
“It’s really hard to get accurate distance measurements in astronomy
and we only have a handful of methods,” said Sebastian Heinz of the
University of Wisconsin in Madison, who led the study. “But just as bats
use sonar to triangulate their location, we can use the X-rays from
Circinus X-1 to figure out exactly where it is.”
The light echo shows that Circinus X-1 is located about 30,700 light
years from Earth, and settles the difference in results published in
prior studies. The detection and characterization of the rings required
the unique capabilities of Chandra -- the ability to detect fine details
combined with sensitivity to faint signals.
Researchers determined that the rings are echoes from a burst of
X-rays emitted by Circinus X-1 in late 2013. The burst reflected off
intervening clouds of dust, with some reflected X-rays arriving to Earth
from different angles at a time delay of about one to three months,
creating the observed rings.
By comparing the Chandra data to prior images of dust clouds detected
by the Mopra radio telescope in Australia, the researchers determined
that each ring was created by the X-ray reflections off a different dust
cloud. The radio data provides the distance to the different clouds and
the X-ray echo determines the location of Circinus X-1 relative to the
clouds. An analysis of the rings with the combined radio data allows
researchers to use simple geometry to accurately determine the distance
of Circinus X-1 from Earth.
“We like to call this system the ‘Lord of the Rings,’ but this one
has nothing to do with Sauron,” said co-author Michael Burton of the
University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. “The beautiful match
between the Chandra X-ray rings and the Mopra radio images of the
different clouds is really a first in astronomy.”
This new distance estimate means that Circinus X-1 is inherently much
brighter in X-rays and other types of light than some scientists
previously thought, and indicates that the star system has repeatedly
passed a key threshold for brightness where the outward pressure from
radiation by the system is balanced by the inward pull of gravity. This
behavior is something astronomers generally see more often in systems
containing black holes than in systems like Circinus X-1 that contain a
The researchers also determined that the speed of the jet of
high-energy particles produced by the system is at least 99.9% of the
speed of light. This extreme velocity is usually associated with jets
produced by a black hole.
“Circinus X-1 acts in some ways like a neutron star and in some like a
black hole,” said co-author Catherine Braiding, also of the University
of New South Wales. “It’s extremely unusual to find an object that has
such a blend of these properties.”
Circinus X-1 is thought to have originally become an X-ray source
about 2,500 years ago, as seen from Earth. This makes Circinus X-1 the
youngest so-called X-ray binary known. The new Chandra data allows
astronomers to make a detailed three-dimensional map of the dust clouds
between Circinus X-1 and us, providing a valuable probe of the structure
of the galaxy.
These results have been published in The Astrophysical Journal and are available online.
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the
Chandra program for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in
Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, controls Chandra's science and flight operations.
For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit: