Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Team Led By UMass Astronomer Gets Sharpest-Ever Look At The Heart Of The Milky Way

Date:
January 10, 2002
Source:
University Of Massachusetts At Amherst
Summary:
A team of astronomers led by Daniel Wang of the University of Massachusetts has taken the sharpest-ever image of the heart of our Milky Way galaxy. The image, a panorama of the galaxy’s center taken with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, reveals hundreds of white dwarf stars, neutron stars, and black holes bathed in an incandescent fog of multimillion-degree gas around a supermassive black hole.

AMHERST, Mass. - A team of astronomers led by Daniel Wang of the University of Massachusetts has taken the sharpest-ever image of the heart of our Milky Way galaxy. The image, a panorama of the galaxy’s center taken with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, reveals hundreds of white dwarf stars, neutron stars, and black holes bathed in an incandescent fog of multimillion-degree gas around a supermassive black hole.

Related Articles


Wang presented the panorama - a mosaic of 30 separate images which covers a 400- by 900-light-year swath of the galaxy - today at this week’s meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C. The findings will be detailed in the Jan. 10 issue of the journal Nature. The co-authors are Eric Gotthelf of Columbia University, and UMass postdoctoral researcher Cornelia Lang.

Astronomers have detected X-ray radiation from the Milky Way’s center for more than two decades, Wang said, “but the origin of this X-ray radiation has been a mystery. The reasons are simple: we simply didn’t have good enough resolution.” Pictures produced with previous X-ray telescopes would show clouds and bulges of the radiation, Wang said, but none of these pictures gave astronomers the details they sought. This new image allows scientists to see individual X-ray sources separately from the diffuse glow produced by hot gases. The finding appears to answer at least one question that astronomers and physicists have been puzzling over for decades: why did the hot gas in the galaxy’s center, which scientists believed was as hot as 100 million degrees Celsius, stay relatively clustered rather than expand? The answer: “Much of the high-energy X-ray radiation is due to discrete sources that most likely represent white dwarf stars, neutron stars, and black holes. The remaining less-energetic radiation is due to hot gas. This means that the gas is hot, but not as hot as we scientists previously believed,” said Wang. Rather than 100 million degrees, the gas at the galaxy’s center climbs to a relatively mild 10 million degrees.

The X-ray-emitting discrete sources and diffuse gas are the remnants of stars, which are forming in the center at a much more rapid pace than at the outer reaches of the galaxy. Many of the most massive stars are located in the galaxy’s center, and are boiling off their outer layers in searing stellar winds. Supernova explosions are far more common in the region, and send shock waves booming through the inner galaxy. “It’s a very high-pressure environment,” said Lang. “It’s a nice place to visit - with a telescope - but I wouldn’t want to live there.” Also, the image shows that the high-pressure and high-temperature gas is apparently escaping from the center into the halo of the galaxy. The outflow of gas, chemically enriched from the frequent destruction of stars, will enrich the farther reaches of the galaxy, Wang said. The heart of the galaxy, page two The center of the galaxy is 20,000 light-years away. “It’s far away, but still much closer than anything else we can look at,” said Wang. “The nearest galaxy that is similar to our own, Andromeda, is a hundred times farther away. Thus, our own galaxy becomes a galaxy laboratory for us to learn about the activities and processes which govern other galaxies.” Wang studies the “hot universe;” that is, objects and gas with temperatures of at least a million degrees.

More information and images associated with this release are available at: http://chandra.harvard.edu, http://chandra.nasa.gov, and http://www.astro.umass.edu/~wqd/gcs/

Findings to be published in Nature; presented at AAS meeting in Washington, D.C.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Massachusetts At Amherst. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Massachusetts At Amherst. "Team Led By UMass Astronomer Gets Sharpest-Ever Look At The Heart Of The Milky Way." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 January 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/01/020110075328.htm>.
University Of Massachusetts At Amherst. (2002, January 10). Team Led By UMass Astronomer Gets Sharpest-Ever Look At The Heart Of The Milky Way. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/01/020110075328.htm
University Of Massachusetts At Amherst. "Team Led By UMass Astronomer Gets Sharpest-Ever Look At The Heart Of The Milky Way." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/01/020110075328.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said that NORAD is ready to track Santa Claus as he delivers gifts next week. Speaking tongue-in-cheek, he said if Santa drops anything off his sleigh, "we've got destroyers out there to pick them up." (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's Planet-Finding Kepler Mission Isn't Over After All

NASA's Planet-Finding Kepler Mission Isn't Over After All

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) More than a year after NASA declared the Kepler spacecraft broken beyond repair, scientists have figured out how to continue getting useful data. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) NASA's Curiosity rover detected methane on Mars and organic compounds on the surface, but it doesn't quite prove there was life ... yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Evidence of Life on Mars? NASA Rover Finds Methane, Organic Chemicals

Evidence of Life on Mars? NASA Rover Finds Methane, Organic Chemicals

Reuters - US Online Video (Dec. 16, 2014) NASA's Mars Curiosity rover finds methane in the Martian atmosphere and organic chemicals in the planet's soil, the latest hint that Mars was once suitable for microbial life. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins