Frame from a 360 degree simulation of the hot gas in the center of the Milky Way
Credit: NASA/CXC; C.M.P. Russell

Immerse Yourself in the Galactic Center

Virtual reality is a powerful tool for scientific exploration. Some have considered whether reality itself is simply a computer simulation. Scientists have now turned their capabilities to try to understand the high-energy emission from perhaps the most mysterious region of the Milky Way, the Galactic Center. The Chandra X-ray Observatory has provided us with astounding views of the center of the Galaxy at X-ray emitting energies, important since X-rays are able to penetrate the thick clouds of gas and dust which block our view of the Galactic center at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths. The X-ray emission seen by Chandra also details where high energy, X-ray producing processes are occurring. As can be clearly seen in the Chandra images, the center of the Galaxy is immersed in diffuse clouds of hot, X-ray emitting gas. The image above is a frame from an immersive video created by a computer siimulation, and shows hot shocked gas associated with collisions in the winds of the population of massive stars which orbit the supermassive black hole, Sgr A*, which lies at the center of the Milky Way. The geometric view is as if the viewer were situated near Sgr A* (though without the general relativistic effects you might expect). The simulation shows clouds of hot gas whirring by, which you can track to see their fate. The simulation also shows the effects of an outburst from Sgr A*, which blows away the hot gas. This simulation provides the best experience if you use a Virtual Reality viewer, even a cardboard one, which allows you to scan the high energy sky as if you were at Sgr A*.
Published: January 15, 2018

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Each week the HEASARC brings you new, exciting and beautiful images from X-ray and Gamma ray astronomy. Check back each week and be sure to check out the HEAPOW archive!
Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Monday, 22-Jan-2018 08:12:52 EST