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Surprising Science

X-Rays from the Whirlpool

What does the x-ray of an entire spiral galaxy look like? NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory took an x-ray of interacting galaxies known as M51, or the Whirlpool. 


NASA explains:

The image is a conglomerate of X-ray light from Chandra and visible light from the Hubble Space Telescope. The number of luminous x-ray sources, likely neutron star and black hole binary systems within the confines of M51, is unusually high for normal spiral or elliptical galaxies and suggests this cosmic whirlpool has experienced intense bursts of massive star formation. The bright cores of both galaxies, NGC 5194 and NGC 5195 (right and left respectively), also exhibit high-energy activity. In this false-color image where X-rays are depicted in purple, diffuse X-ray emission typically results from multi-million degree gas heated by supernova explosions.

Image credit: NASA


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