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.
Last modified May 26, 2001