x ray telescope

Five Famous Pulsars from the Past 50 Years

Early astronomers faced an obstacle: their technology. These great minds only had access to telescopes that revealed celestial bodies shining in visible light. Later, with the development of new detectors, scientists opened their eyes to other types of light like radio waves and X-rays. They realized cosmic objects look very different when viewed in these additional wavelengths. Pulsars — rapidly spinning stellar corpses that appear to pulse at us — are a perfect example.

The first pulsar was observed 50 years ago on August 6, 1967, using radio waves, but since then we have studied them in nearly all wavelengths of light, including X-rays and gamma rays.

Typical Pulsar

Most pulsars form when a star — between 8 and 20 times the mass of our sun — runs out of fuel and its core collapses into a super dense and compact object: a neutron star

These neutron stars are about the size of a city and can rotate slowly or quite quickly, spinning anywhere from once every few hours to hundreds of times per second. As they whirl, they emit beams of light that appear to blink at us from space.

First Pulsar

One day five decades ago, a graduate student at the University of Cambridge, England, named Jocelyn Bell was poring over the data from her radio telescope - 120 meters of paper recordings.

Image Credit: Sumit Sijher

She noticed some unusual markings, which she called “scruff,” indicating a mysterious object (simulated above) that flashed without fail every 1.33730 seconds. This was the very first pulsar discovered, known today as PSR B1919+21.

Best Known Pulsar

Before long, we realized pulsars were far more complicated than first meets the eye — they produce many kinds of light, not only radio waves. Take our galaxy’s Crab Nebula, just 6,500 light years away and somewhat of a local celebrity. It formed after a supernova explosion, which crushed the parent star’s core into a neutron star. 

The resulting pulsar, nestled inside the nebula that resulted from the supernova explosion, is among the most well-studied objects in our cosmos. It’s pictured above in X-ray light, but it shines across almost the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to gamma rays.

Brightest Gamma-ray Pulsar

Speaking of gamma rays, in 2015 our Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope discovered the first pulsar beyond our own galaxy capable of producing such high-energy emissions. 

Located in the Tarantula Nebula 163,000 light-years away, PSR J0540-6919 gleams nearly 20 times brighter in gamma-rays than the pulsar embedded in the Crab Nebula.

Dual Personality Pulsar

No two pulsars are exactly alike, and in 2013 an especially fast-spinning one had an identity crisis. A fleet of orbiting X-ray telescopes, including our Swift and Chandra observatories, caught IGR J18245-2452 as it alternated between generating X-rays and radio waves. 

Scientists suspect these radical changes could be due to the rise and fall of gas streaming onto the pulsar from its companion star.

Transformer Pulsar

This just goes to show that pulsars are easily influenced by their surroundings. That same year, our Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope uncovered another pulsar, PSR J1023+0038, in the act of a major transformation — also under the influence of its nearby companion star. 

The radio beacon disappeared and the pulsar brightened fivefold in gamma rays, as if someone had flipped a switch to increase the energy of the system. 

NICER Mission

Our Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) mission, launched this past June, will study pulsars like those above using X-ray measurements.

With NICER’s help, scientists will be able to gaze even deeper into the cores of these dense and mysterious entities.

For more information about NICER, visit https://www.nasa.gov/nicer

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The Arrhythmic Beating of a Black Hole Heart : At the center of the Centaurus galaxy cluster, there is a large elliptical galaxy called NGC 4696. Deeper still, there is a supermassive black hole buried within the core of this galaxy. New data from NASAs Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes has revealed details about this giant black hole.

What is it Like to be a NASA Intern?

We asked prospective interns that follow us on social media what questions they had for our current interns. 

You asked…they answered! Let’s take a look:

Answer: “Yes, sometimes astronauts request to run through the International Space Station simulation that we have using the hyper-reality lab.”

Answer: “Persistence is the key to getting your first NASA internship. Work hard, study hard, keep applying and persevere.”

Answer: “NASA is looking for passionate, smart and curious, full-time students, who are U.S. citizens, at least 16 years of age and have a minimum 3.0 GPA.”

Answer: “In addition to STEM majors, NASA has many opportunities for students studying business, photography, English, graphics and public relations.”

Answer: “The highlight has been the chance to learn a lot more about embedded systems and coding for them, and just seeing how everyone’s efforts in lab come together for our small part in the AVIRIS-NG project.”

Answer: Yes! Here at the Kennedy Space Center is where all the action takes place. Check out the schedule on our website!”

Answer:  “There are 10 NASA field centers and they all accept interns.”

Answer: “Yes, we do! I am currently working in tech development for an X-ray telescope that is launched into space to take pictures of our galaxy.”

Answer: “The greatest thing I’ve learned as a NASA intern is to not be afraid of failing and to get involved in any way you can. NASA is a very welcoming environment that offers a lot of opportunities for its interns to learn.”

Answer: My favorite experience from being a NASA intern is meeting people from all around the world and being exposed to the different cultures.”

Want to become a NASA intern? Visit intern.nasa.gov to learn about the open opportunities and follow @NASAInterns on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates!

Watch the full story on NASA Snapchat or Instagram until it expires on April 6.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

Eclipse 2017 From Space

On Aug. 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse passed over North America. People throughout the continent captured incredible images of this celestial phenomenon. We and our partner agencies had a unique vantage point on the eclipse from space. Here are a few highlights from our fleet of satellites that observe the Sun, the Moon and Earth.

Our Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, which watches the Sun nearly 24/7 from its orbit 3,000 miles above Earth, saw a partial eclipse on Aug. 21.

SDO sees the Moon cross in front of the Sun several times a year. However, these lunar transits don’t usually correspond to an eclipse here on Earth, and an eclipse on the ground doesn’t guarantee that SDO will see anything out of the ordinary. In this case, on Aug. 21, SDO did see the Moon briefly pass in front of the Sun at the same time that the Moon’s shadow passed over the eastern United States. From its view in space, SDO only saw 14 percent of the Sun blocked by the Moon, while most U.S. residents saw 60 percent blockage or more.

Six people saw the eclipse from the International Space Station. Viewing the eclipse from orbit were NASA’s Randy Bresnik, Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson, the European Space Agency’s Paolo Nespoli, and Roscosmos’ Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Sergey Ryazanskiy. The space station crossed the path of the eclipse three times as it orbited above the continental United States at an altitude of 250 miles.

From a million miles out in space, our Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera, or EPIC, instrument captured 12 natural color images of the Moon’s shadow crossing over North America. EPIC is aboard NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, where it photographs the full sunlit side of Earth every day, giving it a unique view of the shadow from total solar eclipses. EPIC normally takes about 20 to 22 images of Earth per day, so this animation appears to speed up the progression of the eclipse.

A ground-based image of the total solar eclipse – which looks like a gray ring – is superimposed over a red-toned image of the Sun’s atmosphere, called the corona. This view of the corona was captured by the European Space Agency and our Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO. At center is an orange-toned image of the Sun’s surface as seen by our Solar Dynamics Observatory in extreme ultraviolet wavelengths of light.

During a total solar eclipse, ground-based telescopes can observe the lowest part of the solar corona in a way that can’t be done at any other time, as the Sun’s dim corona is normally obscured by the Sun’s bright light. The structure in the ground-based corona image — defined by giant magnetic fields sweeping out from the Sun’s surface — can clearly be seen extending into the outer image from the space-based telescope. The more scientists understand about the lower corona, the more they can understand what causes the constant outward stream of material called the solar wind, as well as occasional giant eruptions called coronal mass ejections.

As millions of Americans watched the total solar eclipse that crossed the continental United States, the international Hinode solar observation satellite captured its own images of the awe-inspiring natural phenomenon. The images were taken with Hinode’s X-ray telescope, or XRT, as it flew above the Pacific Ocean, off the west coast of the United States, at an altitude of approximately 422 miles. Hinode is a joint endeavor by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, the European Space Agency, the United Kingdom Space Agency and NASA.

During the total solar eclipse our Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, in orbit around the Moon, turned one of its instruments towards Earth to capture an image of the Moon’s shadow over a large region of the United States.

As LRO crossed the lunar south pole heading north at 3,579 mph, the shadow of the Moon was racing across the United States at 1,500 mph. A few minutes later, LRO began a slow 180-degree turn to look back at Earth, capturing an image of the eclipse very near the location where totality lasted the longest. The spacecraft’s Narrow Angle Camera began scanning Earth at 2:25:30 p.m. EDT and completed the image 18 seconds later.

Sensors on the polar-orbiting Terra and Suomi NPP satellites gathered data and imagery in swaths thousands of miles wide. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, sensor on Terra and Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, or VIIRS, on Suomi NPP captured the data used to make this animation that alternates between two mosaics. Each mosaic is made with data from different overpasses that was collected at different times.

This full-disk geocolor image from NOAA/NASA’s GOES-16 shows the shadow of the Moon covering a large portion of the northwestern U.S. during the eclipse.

Our Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, mission captured this view of the Moon passing in front of the Sun on Aug. 21.  

Check out nasa.gov/eclipse to learn more about the Aug. 21, 2017, eclipse along with future eclipses, and follow us on Twitter for more satellite images like these: @NASASun, @NASAMoon, and @NASAEarth.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.

I’ve been re-reading the Piraka novel saga a lot lately, and I noticed something: each Piraka has two abilities, one vision-based and another unrelated power. Thok had spellbinder vision and animating objects, Reidak had infrared/thermal vision and adaptation to defeat, Hakann had heat vision and mental blasts, Avak had telescopic/X-Ray vision and prison creation, Vezok had impact vision and power absorption, and Zaktan had laser vision and… What? I don’t think his protodite form should count, as A: it was granted by accident and B: it’s more a physical trait than a mental ability, like the others. So what is Zaktan’s second power? Perhaps his power WAS his ability to turn into protodites, and TSO’s eye beams were the catalyst for Zaktan’s power activating. Maybe he already had a power, but his transformation rendered him unable to use it. Or maybe… Maybe Zaktan still has that second power of his, and for whatever reason, he’s kept it hidden. That’s a pretty Zaktan thing to do.


Just a bit of background on this little beauty. What you are looking at is a nebula resulting from a supernova roughly (maybe) 1.000 years ago. The interesting part, apart from that gorgeous happening, is the fact that the explosion may have produced a black hole. A black hole that is theorized to be the youngest ever spotted in our galaxy. 

Thanks to http://xiaolinhodown.tumblr.com/ and http://princessbowserkoopa.tumblr.com/ for inspiring me to create an OC for Supernoobs.

Tuesday (real name Amanda) Sanchez is a 12 year old sarcastic, moody Hispanic American goth girl who uses a pink battle ball which gives her vision based abilities like (heat, freeze, X-ray, night, laser, telescopic, future) She usually very emotionless and dull, and often times likes to creep people out with her gothly weirdness.

Two cosmic structures show evidence for a remarkable change in behavior of a supermassive black hole in a distant galaxy. Using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes, astronomers are piecing together clues from a cosmic “blob” and a gas bubble that could be a new way to probe the past activity of a giant black hole and its effect on its host galaxy.

The Green Blob, a renowned cosmic structure also called “Hanny’s Voorwerp” (which means “Hanny’s object” in Dutch), is located about 650 million light years from Earth. This object was discovered in 2007 by Hanny van Arkel, at the time a school teacher, as part of the citizen science project called Galaxy Zoo.

Astronomers think that a blast of ultraviolet and X-radiation produced by a supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy IC 2497 (only 200,000 light years away) excited the oxygen atoms in a gas cloud, giving the Green Blob its emerald glow. At present the black hole is growing slowly and not producing nearly enough radiation to cause such a glow.

However, the distance of the Green Blob from IC 2497 is large enough that we may be observing a delayed response, or an echo of past activity, from a rapidly growing black hole. Such a black hole would produce copious amounts of radiation from infalling material, categorizing it as a “quasar.”

If the black hole was growing at a much higher rate in the past and then slowed down dramatically in the past 200,000 years, the glow of the Green Blob could be consistent with the present low activity of the black hole. In this scenario, the blob would become much dimmer in the distant future, as reduced ultraviolet and X-radiation levels from the faded quasar finally reach the cloud.

In this new composite image of IC 2497 (top object) and the Green Blob (bottom), X-rays from Chandra are purple and optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope are red, green, and blue.

New observations with Chandra show that the black hole is still producing large amounts of energy even though it is no longer generating intense radiation as a quasar. The evidence for this change in the black hole’s activity comes from hot gas in the center of IC 2497 detected in a long exposure by Chandra. The center of the X-ray emission shows cooler gas, which astronomers interpret as a large bubble in the gas.

Astronomers suspect this bubble may have been created when a pair of jets from the black hole blew away the hot gas. In this scenario, the energy produced by the supermassive black hole has changed from that of a quasar, when energy is radiated in a broad beam, to more concentrated output in the form of collimated jets of particles and consistent with the observed radio emission in this source.

Such changes in behavior from strong radiation to strong outflow are seen in stellar-mass black holes that weigh about ten times that of the Sun, taking place over only a few weeks. The much higher mass of the black hole in IC 2497 results in much slower changes over many thousands of years.

The citizen and professional scientists of the Galaxy Zoo project have continued to hunt for objects like the Green Blob. Many smaller versions of the Green Blob have been found (dubbed “Voorwerpjes” or “little objects” in Dutch.) These latest results from Chandra suggest that fading quasars identified as Voorwerpjes are good places to search for examples of supermassive black holes affecting their surroundings.

Object Names: IC 2497, Hanny's  Voorwerp

Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/ETH Zurich/L. Sartori et al, Optical: NASA/STScI

Time And Space

Do Black Holes Explode When They Die?

A new theory suggests that black holes might die by transforming into a ‘white hole,’ which theoretically behave in the exact opposite manner as a black hole - rather than sucking all matter in, a 'white hole’ spews it out.

The theory, as first reported by Nature.com, is based on the speculative quantum theory of gravity. Scientists believe it may help determine the great debate over black holes about whether they destroy the things they consume.

According to the theory, a 'white hole’ would explosively expel all the material consumed by a black hole.

Keep reading

This captivating composite image is NGC 6543 as it appears to the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and Hubble Telescope. Also known as the Cat’s Eye Nebula, NGC 6543 is a planetary nebula in a phase of stellar evolution that our own Sun should experience several billion years from now, when it expands to become a red giant. The star has shed most of its outer layers, leaving behind a hot core that contracts to form a dense white dwarf star. (Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/RIT/J.Kastner et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI)


“ But why, Dad, why?! ”

“  You know why, son.  You’re out of control!  Giving that Kryptonian Supernova Wedgie to Lex Luthor, Jr.  You’re lucky his father is a mad genius and will figure out how to fix his spine.  Burning ‘Bat-Dork Lives Here’ in the lawn of Wayne Manor with your heat vision.  You know how old Alfred is?  He can’t be out in the heat with a rake and grass seed fixing that. 

And I’m not stupid, I know why you spend so much time in near-orbit over Paradise Island.  You’re at that age, and Telescopic X-Ray Vision is too great a temptation: I was a Superboy once, too.  There isn’t a birthmark or mole in Smallville I don’t know about.  ”

“ And you’re punishing me for the SAME THING? ”

“ But I wasn’t tweeting that information to the whole world!  Or taking selfies with Catwoman’s stolen jewels and unmentionables draped over your head!  How did you think that made the Bat-Twins feel?  They’re already in therapy because Selina can’t give up crime.  Would it be funny if your friend Atom, Jr. went swimming in your mother’s underwear drawer and took pictures?  You Teen Titans opened up a Boom Tube to Apokolips just to take turns mooning Darkseid and made a Vine out of it! ”

“ Seriously?!  I have super-hearing!  I HEARD you and Uncle Hal and Uncle Barry cracking up!   We’re just kids!  We were just fooling around! ”

“  That’s the problem: you narcissistic super-kids today don’t know how to keep your youthful indiscretions discrete.  It’s not that you get up to any less shenanigans than we did, you just don’t know how to keep your fat mouths shut and your fingers off the record button.  It’s cool now, but the Internet never forgets.  Brainiac built it that way, to be a permanent repository of the catalogued embarrassment of the entire human race.  There’s some things you just remember fondly and chuckle about around the Justice League meeting table with your friends, not digitally immortalize for everyone to throw in your face and judge you for years later. ”

“ I-I promise, Dad, I’ll never do it again.  Don’t take away my powers!  ”

“ Well … okay.  But you’re not completely off the hook. ”

“  Wait, Dad.  What are you doing with that Red Kryptonite? ”

“ Well, son, I’ve specifically altered the atomic weight of this sample of Red K so that it’s random transformative powers aren’t so random: exposure to this will turn you into a giant, delusional, bald-headed, diaper-wearing telepathic super-ape with extremely poor impulse control for 48 hours, then it’ll wear off. Your Teen Titan buddies can help babysit you until then.  But don’t worry, I’ve borrowed a collection of Uncle Jimmy’s cameras, and I’ll be close by.  You can follow all your misadventures later on Instagram. ”

“  Why don’t you just send me to the Phantom Zone and be done with it.  The Internet is right: you are a jerk. ”

Curt Swan & Murphy Anderson, August 1970


Most Powerful Black Hole Jet Ever Spotted By NASA’s Chandra

“From 500 million light years away, the Chandra X-ray telescope has mapped out a 300,000 light year-long jet coming from the galaxy Pictor A. Like many active galaxies, it’s powered by a supermassive black hole many millions or even billions of times the mass of our Sun.”

When supermassive black holes have a large amount of matter fall onto them, they accelerate a large amount of the ionized material – particularly electrons – into high-velocity, bi-directional jets. In many cases, those jets of material collide with previously blown-off gaseous material and create high-energy X-rays. While these can often be visible across the cosmos, it’s very rare to have a jet so large. The galaxy Pictor A, imaged by Chandra over a 15 year timescale, has the longest known such jet at 300,000 light years, culminating in a “hot spot” shockwave, where the electrons collide with the gas at greater than the speed of sound. A counterjet, invisible with all other telescopes, was also found by Chandra.

Go get the full story in 200 words, pictures and video (!) on today’s Mostly Mute Monday.