This is the warm, the energy of the Universe.
A German-Russian space telescope has just acquired a breakthrough sky map that traces the sky in X-rays.
The image records a lot of the violent action in the cosmos – the cases where matter is accelerated, heated and shredded.
Treats, black holes, exploding stars, and burning gas.
The data comes from the eRosita instrument mounted on Spektr-RG.
This orbiting telescope was launched in July of last year and it has sent to observe the position of nearly 1.5 million km from Earth. Once ordered, and declared fully operational in December, it was left to spin slowly and analyzes the depths of space.
eRosita, the first of its kind in a dataset, shown in the image at the top of this page, was completed last week. It registers more than a million X-ray sources.
“It is actually about the same number that had been detected throughout the history of X-ray astronomy to return 60 years. We have essentially doubled known sources in just six months, “said Kirpal Nandra, who heads group high energy astrophysics at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MGA) in Garching, Germany.
“The data is really beautiful and I think what we are doing here is going to revolutionize X-ray in astronomy,” he told BBC News.
The map uses the so-called Aitoff projection, which unwraps the sky sphere on an ellipse. The band across the middle is the plane of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, with the center of the galaxy at the center of the ellipse.
The image has been color coded to help describe what is going on. Blues represent higher energy from X-rays (1 to 2.3 kiloelectron volts, keV); the greens are mid-range (from 0.6 to 1 keV); and the reds are lower in energy (0.3-0.6 keV).
Much of the airplane galaxy is dominated by energy sources. In part, this is because large amounts of gas and dust have absorbed and filtered through the drop in radiation energy. The Sources include stars with strong, magnetically active and extremely hot atmospheres.
The greens and yellows that draw a kind of characteristic mushroom covering a large part of the map represent the hot gases inside and outside our galaxy. This material imprints information on the formation and evolution of the Milky Way.
Some of the larger splodges are well known to actors on the sky. The bright yellow patch just above the plane on the far right is a concentration of remnants of supernovae – the wreckage of exploding stars whose shockwaves have overheated a cocoon of dust and gas. This patch is dominated by the Vela remains of supernova. It was an explosion that took thousands of years, but a mere 800 light years from Earth.
Look for a red glow at the top and bottom of the map. This is largely the X-ray emissions of hot gas far beyond our galaxy. And in the white of the speckles, we mainly see the signature of super massive black holes. Indeed, about 80% of all the sources contained in the new map are the gigantic black holes that reside in the centers of distant galaxies. They pump X-rays as their immense gravitational force attracts and strips the material.
Some of the super massive black holes making an appearance on the map are visible when the Universe was less than a billion years old, less than 10% of its current age.
Spektr-RG and its instrument eRosita intend to collect seven more from all over the sky, surveys conducted over the next 3.5 years. This will allow the telescope to refine its data, to remove artifacts and noise, but also to a deeper sense, in the cosmos, and to pick up weak sources that would otherwise be beyond detection.
A key objective is to map the distribution of hot water, emitting X-rays of the gas that illuminates large clusters of galaxies.
Astronomers hope this information can lead to new perspectives on how the Universe is structured and how it has changed over time. It is possible, there may be some clues in this project about the nature of dark energy, the mysterious “force” that seems to push the cosmos from the other faster.
“It’s the grand prize, but it wouldn’t have come to the end of the mission,” said Professor Nandra.
“Eight investigations allow us to really go deep into the distant Universe. Basically, we are trying to detect all clusters of galaxies in the Universe above a certain mass limit. We have a good example of this already – maybe around 10,000. But we hope to get at least 100,000 clusters of galaxies. ”
eRosita is the German element on Spektr-RG. It takes up most of the room on the bus spacecraft, or the chassis. But it sits next to a Russian instrument known as ART-XC, which is sensitive to higher energies, up to 30 keV.
Both eRosita and ART-XC use a cluster of seven tubular mirror corral X-ray light modules down on their sensitive camera detectors.
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