NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has spotted brilliant shining behavior of two black holes inside a spiral galaxy. The new image of the bright glow in the galaxy along with the NuSTAR’s image of the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A has been released at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Long Beach, Calif.
“These new images showcase why NuSTAR is giving us an unprecedented look at the cosmos,” Lou Kaluzienski, NuSTAR program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington, said in a statement. “With NuSTAR’s greater sensitivity and imaging capability, we’re getting a wealth of new information on a wide array of cosmic phenomena in the high-energy X-ray portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.”
NuSTAR was launched in the June of last year and is the first orbiting telescope that can focus high-energy X-ray light. It has helped a lot in the study of the black holes in the inner parts of the Milky Way galaxy and in the farther galaxies of the universe, incredible dense cores of the dead stars and other high-energy objects.
The image above shows the spiral galaxy IC342, also known as Caldwell 5. It is located about 7 million light years away in the constellation Camelopardalis (the Giraffe). NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory showed the presence of two brightly shining black holes called ultraluminous X-ray sources (ULXs) after observation of the galaxy. Brilliant shine of these ULXs is a topic that needs further research.
“High-energy X-rays hold a key to unlocking the mystery surrounding these objects,” said Fiona Harrison, NuSTAR principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “Whether they are massive black holes, or there is new physics in how they feed, the answer is going to be fascinating.”
In the image, IC342 galaxy has been spotted in visible light with two bright spots representing high-energy X-ray light in the translated magenta color. These bright spots are the black holes.
“Before NuSTAR, high-energy X-ray pictures of this galaxy and the two black holes would be so fuzzy that everything would appear as one pixel,” said Harrison.
This second image is of supernova remnant Cassiopeia A, located about 11,000 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia. Blue color shows highest-energy X-ray light observed by NuSTAR while red and green shows the lower end of the NuSTAR’s energy range. Blue region represents the area where shock wave from the supernova blast is forcefully impacting the material around it accelerating particles nearly the speed of light.
“Cas A is the poster child for studying how massive stars explode and also provides us a clue to the origin of the high-energy particles, or cosmic rays, that we see here on Earth,” said Brian Grefenstette of Caltech, a lead researcher on the observations. “With NuSTAR, we can study where, as well as how, particles are accelerated to such ultra-relativistic energies in the remnant left behind by the supernova explosion.”