Feeds

Astronomers uncover mystery at galactic core

How did it get so hot?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

A group of astronomers has come up with a new theory to explain the X-ray glow in the centre of our galaxy. The only problem is that in their search for answers, they've stumbled on a bigger mystery.

After gathering data on the region for 170 days with the Chandra X-ray telescope, the researchers eliminated all of the 2,357 known X-ray sources from a 100-light-year-wide section of the galactic centre. These sources have been attributed to white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes.

Michael Muno, who led the team at UCLA, found that the remaining 'light' from other X-ray sources was not easily explained. To fully explain the remaining X-ray glow, researchers say you would need around 200,000 more X-ray sources, approximately 10 times more than current theories predict.

The scientists say their analysis, which will appear in the 20 September issue of Astrophysical Journal suggests the majority of the X-rays come from two distinct sources, huge clouds of plasma, or ionised gas.

One seems to be perfectly normal, with an average temperature of 10 million degrees. It is probably the residue of the death of massive stars, blown off during their explosive endings. The other is more of an enigma.

The second cloud of plasma is roughly the same size as the first, but it is around 10 times hotter, at 100 million degrees. This is so hot that its own gravity is not sufficient to keep the cloud together, and it should boil away into space.

According to a report on Scientific American, stellar winds and supernovae could replenish the cloud, but cannot account for the extraordinary temperature. The UCLA team cannot fully explain how it got so hot, although they note that heat can be generated by a number of phenomena, including excess supernovae, cosmic rays and magnetic fields.

The team may get more of the answers it seeks following the launch of the Japanese Astro E2 satellite, which is able to resolve the X-ray spectrum very finely. ®

Related stories

Astronomers weigh ultra-cool brown dwarf
Boffins baffled by suburban quasars
Andromeda galaxy home to ten black holes

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.