Credit: MPE

Jets from SS 433

The picture above is a soft X-ray image of the unusual object SS 433 taken with the ROSAT X-ray observatory. SS 433 is a binary star system consisting of a normal-type star and a compact object (probably a neutron star or black hole) gravitationally bound to each other and orbiting the common center of mass with an orbital period of almost 14 days. Matter from the normal star swirls onto the compact object, and forms a disk around the object. Somehow jets of this material are ejected in opposite directions at extremely large velocities, nearly 25% of the speed of light from the compact object. SS 433 is seen as the black object at the center of the image; the X-ray image clearly shows the 2 jets, one on each side of the star. The X-ray emission from the jets is generated by interaction of the jets with the ambient medium. The X-ray emission of SS 433 itself is thermal with temperatures of more than 100 million degrees. The material in the jet on the left is speeding towards the earth, while the jet on the right is directed away from the earth. Along with the orbital motion, the jets precess (change their orientation with respect to the observer, like the rotational axis of a slowing top) every 164 days. In the image above, large scale diffuse X-ray emission produced by the remnant of the explosion which produced the compact object in SS 433 surrounds the star.

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified May 26, 2001