Chandra observation of SS 433
Credit: NASA/CXC/U.Amsterdam/S.Migliari et

Coming and Going in X-rays

The star called SS 433 is sometimes called "the star that's coming and going". The star astonished astronomers by showing doppler-shifted emission lines in its spectrum, which is not so unusual, but in the case of SS 433 the emission lines were coming from material rapidly approaching us, and at the same time, rapidly receding from us. This unusual state of affairs is produced by 2 jets emanating from a black hole in orbit around another "normal" star. The jet pointing towards us produces highly blueshifted emission, and the jet pointed away from us produces highly redshifted emission. The material in these jets are very hot and energetic and produce a large amount of X-rays. This X-ray emission has now been resolved by the Chandra X-ray observatory. The inset image above is the Chandra image of SS 433, which clearly shows that the X-ray emission mostly originates from 2 bright lobes at the end of each jet. The image below is an artist representation of the SS 433 binary system, showing jets produced from the accretion disk around the black hole. These jets wobble or precess around the rotational axis of the accretion disk. The Chandra image suggests that some process is re-heating the material in the jet far from the black hole.

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified December 15, 2002