Press Release

Chandra X-ray images continue to ‘wow’ astronomers

By SpaceRef Editor
June 6, 2000
Filed under

Contact: Steve Roy


NASA-Marshall Space Flight Center News Center

With the release of new images captured by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory showing a luminous spike of X-rays from a giant black hole, a compact nebular resembling a gigantic cosmic crossbow, and a “hot bubble” of gas around a dying star, astronomers continue to be amazed. The revealing images of radio galaxy Pictor A, a nebula in the Vela supernova remnant, and the planetary nebula BD+30 3639 were unveiled today at the 196th national meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Rochester, N.Y.

Radio galaxy Pictor A.
Chandra has revealed a spectacular luminous spike of X-rays that emanates from the vicinity of a giant black hole in the center of the radio galaxy Pictor A. The spike, or jet, is due to a beam of particles that streaks across hundreds of thousands of light years of intergalactic space toward a brilliant X-ray hot spot that marks its end point.

“Both the brightness and the spectrum of the X-rays are very different from what theory predicts,” said Andrew Wilson, a professor at of the University of Maryland at College Park. Wilson, along with Dr. Patrick Shopbell and Dr. Andrew Young, both of the University of Maryland, are submitting an article on this research to the Astrophysical Journal. “The Chandra observations are telling us that something out there is producing many more high energy particles than we expected,” said Wilson.

Vela Pulsar.
In one of its most bizarre images yet, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory shows the details of a compact nebula that resembles a gigantic cosmic crossbow. The nebula, located in the Vela supernova remnant, is created as a rapidly rotating neutron star, or pulsar, spinning out rings and jets of high energy particles while shooting through space.

“What is fascinating is that the jets from the pulsar are directed exactly along the direction of the pulsar’s motion,” said Dr. George Pavlov of Pennsylvania State University at University Park.
“The southern jet looks like a rocket exhaust!”

The neutron star-ring-jet system — which resulted from an explosion in the constellation Vela 10 thousand or more years ago — is similar to the remarkable structure observed by Chandra in the Crab Nebula, another powerful pulsar source. The Vela observation of the jet and ring system is especially significant, because it shows that the Crab Nebula system is not unique.

Planetary nebula BD+30 3639.

Chandra has imaged for the first time a “hot bubble” of gas surrounding a dying, sun-like star. This large region of very hot gas in the planetary nebula BD+30 3639 has a peculiar shape and contains elements produced in the core of the dying star.

“The new Chandra image offers conclusive proof for the existence of the “hot bubble” that theorists have long predicted,” said Joel Kastner, a professor at the Chester F. Carlson Center of Imaging Science at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y. Kastner leads a team of scientists who reported on this observation.


More details and an image of Pictor A can be found at:

More details and an image of the Vela pulsar can be found at:

More details and an image of the planetary nebula can be found at:

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program. TRW Inc., of Redondo Beach, Calif., is the prime contractor for the spacecraft. The Smithsonian’s Chandra X-ray Center controls science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

SpaceRef staff editor.