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NASA’s space observatory captures unusual event gone in a flash

5 Sep 2019, 07:42 UTC
NASA’s space observatory captures unusual event gone in a flash
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This visible-light image of the Fireworks galaxy (NGC 6946) comes from the Digital Sky Survey, and is overlaid with data from NASA’s NuSTAR observatory (in blue and green). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Pops of bright blue and green in a recent image taken of the Fireworks galaxy (NGC 6946) show the locations of extremely bright sources of X-ray light captured by NASA’s NuSTAR space observatory. Generated by some of the most energetic processes in the universe, these X-ray sources are rare compared to the many visible light sources in the background image. A new study, published in the Astrophysical Journal, offers some possible explanations for the surprise appearance of the green source near the centre of the galaxy, which came into view and disappeared in a matter of weeks.
The primary objective of the NuSTAR observations was to study the supernova – the explosion of a star much more massive than our Sun – that appears as a bright blue-green spot (shown in the upper right of the image). These violent events can briefly produce enough visible light to outshine entire galaxies consisting of billions of stars. They also generate many of the chemical elements in our universe that are heavier ...

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