Feeds

Astronomers uncover mystery at galactic core

How did it get so hot?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.