The United Nations has declared that 2015 is the “International Year of Light”, and NASA is releasing some spectacular images to kick of the celebration. Although we often think of ‘light’ as only the visible spectrum we can see, there are many different forms of light: infrared, radio, microwave, ultraviolet, gamma rays, and X-rays (many of these light forms have variations of themselves, but these are the main forms of light within the electromagnetic spectrum) The Chandra X-ray Observatory concentrates on one of these forms of light, which by its name you would guess; the X-ray.
The following images and text are from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory‘s page: “NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory explores the Universe in X-rays, a high-energy form of light. By studying X-ray data and comparing them with observations in other types of light, scientists can develop a better understanding of objects likes stars and galaxies that generate temperatures of millions of degrees and produce X-rays.”
The images, beginning at the upper left and moving clockwise, are:
Messier 51 (M51): This galaxy, nicknamed the “Whirlpool,” is a spiral galaxy, like our Milky Way, located about 30 million light years from Earth. This composite image combines data collected at X-ray wavelengths by Chandra (purple), ultraviolet by the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX, blue); visible light by Hubble (green), and infrared by Spitzer (red).
SNR 0519-69.0: When a massive star exploded in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy to the Milky Way, it left behind an expanding shell of debris called SNR 0519-69.0. Here, multimillion degree gas is seen in X-rays from Chandra (blue). The outer edge of the explosion (red) and stars in the field of view are seen in visible light from Hubble.
MSH 11-62: When X-rays, shown in blue, from Chandra and XMM-Newton are joined in this image with radio data from the Australia Telescope Compact Array (pink) and visible light data from the Digitized Sky Survey (DSS, yellow), a new view of the region emerges. This object, known as MSH 11-62, contains an inner nebula of charged particles that could be an outflow from the dense spinning core left behind when a massive star exploded.
RCW 86: This supernova remnant is the remains of an exploded star that may have been witnessed by Chinese astronomers almost 2,000 years ago. Modern telescopes have the advantage of observing this object in light that is completely invisible to the unaided human eye. This image combines X-rays from Chandra (pink and blue) along with visible emission from hydrogen atoms in the rim of the remnant, observed with the 0.9-m Curtis Schmidt telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (yellow).
Cygnus A: This galaxy, at a distance of some 700 million light years, contains a giant bubble filled with hot, X-ray emitting gas detected by Chandra (blue). Radio data from the NSF’s Very Large Array (red) reveal “hot spots” about 300,000 light years out from the center of the galaxy where powerful jets emanating from the galaxy’s supermassive black hole end. Visible light data (yellow) from both Hubble and the DSS complete this view.
In addition to these newly released images, the Chandra X-ray Center has created a new online repository of images called “Light: Beyond the Bulb” for IYL. This project places astronomical objects in context with light in other fields of science and research.
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra’s science and flight operations.
For more information on “Light: Beyond the Bulb,” visit the website at http://lightexhibit.org
For more information on the International Year of Light, go to http://www.light2015.org/Home.html
For more information and related materials, visit:
For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit:
The brilliant images on this post and the above descriptions are all property of NASA and their respective Observatories. Enjoy them and make sure to keep an eye out for more exciting images and news as we celebrate the “International Year of Light” around the world!