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Chandra's portrait of
Milky Way centre

DR EMILY BALDWIN
ASTRONOMY NOW
Posted: September 22, 2009


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Following ESO's photo release of the Milky Way's Galactic Centre yesterday, the Chandra X-ray Observatory presents this remarkable portrait, exposing new levels of complexity and intrigue at the heart of our Galaxy.

Chandra's image of the Galactic Centre combines low energy X-rays (red), intermediate energy X-rays (green), and high energy X-rays (blue). Click for enlarged, labelled version. Image: NASA/CXC/UMass/D. Wang et al.

Chandra's mosaic is made up of 88 observations, and captures stars at different stages of their evolution, from swarms of massive bright young stars to the explosions of dying stars, all packed into the crowded and hostile environment that is dominated by a central supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*). Since X-rays penetrate the thick blanket of gas and dust that blocks optical light emanating from the centre of the galaxy, Chandra is an essential tool for probing the central regions of our Galaxy.

A diffuse haze of X-ray light floods the region, heated to millions of degrees by winds from newborn stars and stellar death-cries to flares powered by Sgr A*. The area around Sgr A* also contains several mysterious X-ray filaments, some of which are thought to represent gigantic magnetic structures interacting with streams of highly energetic electrons produced by rapidly spinning neutron stars. Point-like X-ray sources are also scattered throughout the locale, lighting up like beacons the locations of stellar end-members such as white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes as they feed material onto their compact, dense cores.

The image is released to mark the opening of the “Chandra’s First Decade of Discovery” symposium being held in Boston this week.

The Planets
From tiny Mercury to distant Neptune and Pluto, The Planets profiles each of the Solar System's members in depth, featuring the latest imagery from space missions. The tallest mountains, the deepest canyons, the strongest winds, raging atmospheric storms, terrain studded with craters and vast worlds of ice are just some of the sights you'll see on this 100-page tour of the planets.
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Hubble Reborn
Hubble Reborn takes the reader on a journey through the Universe with spectacular full-colour pictures of galaxies, nebulae, planets and stars as seen through Hubble's eyes, along the way telling the dramatic story of the space telescope, including interviews with key scientists and astronauts.
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3D Universe
Witness the most awesome sights of the Universe as they were meant to be seen in this 100-page extravaganza of planets, galaxies and star-scapes, all in 3D!
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