1 million second observation of the Galactic Center by Chandra
Credit:NASA/CXC/UMass Amherst/Q.D.Wang et al.

A History of Violence

The centers of galaxies, like the center of our own Milky Way, are areas replete with violence. Extremely strong stellar winds blow from giant stars, and collide with stellar neighbors and nearby clouds of gas and dust. Stars explode. The supermassive black hole in the galaxy's heart scatters stars like marbles, occasionally swallows one and grows fatter still. One method used by astronomers to understand the impact of these violent events is by studying X-ray emission from this region. The X-ray emitting material shows astronomers where all the most energetic eruptions and explosions have occurred. The image above is an X-ray color image of the center of the Milky Way by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. This images is dominated by X-ray emission from 3 superstar clusters, the Arches (upper), the Quintuplet cluster (middle) and the Galactic Center Cluster (lower). Diffuse emission from the combined stellar winds and old supernovae, along with point source emission from colliding wind binary stars and neutron stars is easily seen.

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:25:29 EDT