Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Chandra Turns Up The Heat In The Milky Way Center

Date:
June 23, 2004
Source:
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center
Summary:
A long look by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has revealed new evidence that extremely hot gas exists in a large region at the center of the Milky Way. The intensity and spectrum of the high-energy X-rays produced by this gas present a puzzle as to how it is being heated.

Chandra image of the Milky Way Center
Credit: NASA/CXC/UCLA/M. Muno et al.

A long look by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has revealed new evidence that extremely hot gas exists in a large region at the center of the Milky Way. The intensity and spectrum of the high-energy X-rays produced by this gas present a puzzle as to how it is being heated.

The discovery came to light as a team of astronomers, led by Michael Muno of UCLA used Chandra's unique resolving power to study a region about 100 light years across and painstakingly remove the contributions from 2,357 point-like X-ray sources due to neutron stars, black holes, white dwarfs, foreground stars, and background galaxies.

What remained was an irregular, diffuse glow from a 10-million-degree Celsius gas cloud, embedded in a glow of higher-energy X-rays with a spectrum characteristic of 100-million-degree gas.

"The best explanation for the Chandra data is that the high-energy X-rays come from an extremely hot gas cloud," says Muno, lead author on a paper describing the results to appear in the September 20, 2004 issue of The Astrophysical Journal. "This would mean that there is a significant shortcoming in our understanding of heat sources in the center of our Galaxy."

The combined gravity from the known objects in the center of the Milky Way — all the stars and the supermassive black hole in the center — is not strong enough to prevent the escape of the 100 million degree gas from the region. The escape time would be about 10,000 years, a small fraction of the 10-billion-year lifetime of the Galaxy. This implies that the gas would have to be continually regenerated and heated.

The gas could be replenished by winds from massive stars, but the source of the heating remains a puzzle. The high-energy diffuse X-rays from the center of the Galaxy appear to be the brightest part of a ridge of X-ray emission observed by Chandra and previous X-ray observatories to extend for several thousand light years along the disk of the Galaxy. The extent of this hot ridge implies that it is probably not being heated by the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

Scientists have speculated that magnetic turbulence produced by supernova shock waves can heat the gas to 100 million degrees. Alternatively, high-energy protons and electrons produced by supernova shock waves could be the heat source. However, both these possibilities have problems. The spectrum is not consistent with heating by high-energy particles, the observed magnetic field in the Galactic center does not have the proper structure, and the rate of supernova explosions does not appear to be frequent enough to provide the necessary heating.

The team also considered whether the high-energy X-rays only appear to be diffuse, and are in fact due to the combined glow of an as yet undetected population of point-like sources, like the diffuse lights of a city seen at a great distance. The difficulty with this explanation is that 200,000 sources would be required in the observed region. Although the total number of stars in this region is about 30 million, the number of stars of the type expected to produce X-rays at the required power and energy is estimated to be only 20 thousand. Further, such a large unresolved population of sources would produce a much smoother X-ray glow than is observed.

"There is no known class of objects that could account for such a large number of high-energy X-ray sources at the Galactic center," said Fred Baganoff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, a coauthor of the study.

These results were based on over 170 hours of observations of a 17-by-17-arcminute region around the Milky Way's center using Chandra's Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer instrument. Other team members from UCLA, MIT, and Penn State are also co-authors on the upcoming paper in The Astrophysical Journal.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington. Northrop Grumman of Redondo Beach, Calif., formerly TRW, Inc., was the prime development contractor for the observatory. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls science and flight operations from the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Mass.

Additional information and images are available at:

http://chandra.harvard.edu/andhttp://chandra.nasa.gov/


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center. "Chandra Turns Up The Heat In The Milky Way Center." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 June 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/06/040623082744.htm>.
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center. (2004, June 23). Chandra Turns Up The Heat In The Milky Way Center. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/06/040623082744.htm
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center. "Chandra Turns Up The Heat In The Milky Way Center." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/06/040623082744.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Hyped-Up Big Bang Discovery Has A Dust Problem

The Hyped-Up Big Bang Discovery Has A Dust Problem

Newsy (Sep. 22, 2014) An analysis of new satellite data casts serious doubt on a previous study about the Big Bang that was once hailed as revolutionary. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Has Finally Reached Mars

NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Has Finally Reached Mars

Newsy (Sep. 22, 2014) After a 10-month voyage through space, NASA's MAVEN spacecraft is now orbiting the Red Planet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: SpaceX Rocket Carries 3-D Printer to Space

Raw: SpaceX Rocket Carries 3-D Printer to Space

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) A SpaceX Rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, carrying a custom-built 3-D printer into space. NASA envisions astronauts one day using the printer to make their own spare parts. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX Cargo Ship Blasts Off Toward Space Station

SpaceX Cargo Ship Blasts Off Toward Space Station

AFP (Sep. 21, 2014) SpaceX's unmanned Dragon cargo ship blasts off toward the International Space Station, carrying a load of supplies and science experiments for the astronauts living there. Duration: 00:35 Video provided by AFP
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