Dance of the X-rays

Jul 29, 2013
XMM-Newton X-ray slew track

Like car tail lights streaking through a busy city at night, this unique image records over a thousand movements made by ESA's XMM-Newton space telescope as it shifts its gaze from one X-ray object to another.

Orbiting in space since 1999, XMM-Newton is studying high-energy phenomena in the Universe, such as , , pulsars and stellar winds.

Even when moving from object to object, the collects data. These slews are represented by the bright strips of X-ray data in this image, which records over 1200 individual slews between 2001 and 2012, and covers about 62% of the sky.

It is a mosaic of 73 178 individual images of 1 x 0.5 degrees and is shown in Galactic projection, with the Galactic plane lying across the centre of the image.

A number of well-known X-ray sources are seen in the image. The brightest feature, lying in the Galactic plane at the right of the image, is the Vela supernova remnant, which occupies an area of sky 150 times larger than the full Moon.

On the opposite side, to the left of the Galactic plane, is the Cygnus Loop, an expanding shock wave caused by a star that exploded as a supernova less than 15 000 years ago.

Just above the centre of the image is the powerful X-ray source known as Scorpius X-1, the first source to be discovered in X-rays in 1962. Lying about 9000 light-years from Earth, it is the strongest source of X-rays in the sky, aside from our own Sun.

Nestled in the south ecliptic pole within the concentrated region of overlapping slews at the bottom right of the image are the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds, dwarf galaxies that our part of our Milky Way Galaxy's local neighbourhood.

Explore further: The hot blue stars of Messier 47

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Has the speediest pulsar been found?

Jun 28, 2012

(Phys.org) -- NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA's XMM-Newton in space, and the Parkes radio telescope in Australia -- may have found the fastest moving pulsar ever seen.

Image: A supernova cocoon breakthrough

Jul 10, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Using observations from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, researchers have obtained the first X-ray evidence of a supernova shock wave breaking through a cocoon of gas surrounding the star that ...

Celestial bauble intrigues astronomers

Dec 20, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- With the holiday season in full swing, a new image from an assembly of telescopes has revealed an unusual cosmic ornament. Data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA's XMM-Newton have ...

Recommended for you

The hot blue stars of Messier 47

23 hours ago

Messier 47 is located approximately 1600 light-years from Earth, in the constellation of Puppis (the poop deck of the mythological ship Argo). It was first noticed some time before 1654 by Italian astronomer ...

Why is space black?

Dec 16, 2014

Imagine you're in space. Just the floating part, not the peeing into a vacuum hose or eating that funky "ice cream" from foil bags part. If you looked at the Sun, it would be bright and your retinas would ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.