Washington, September 23 (ANI): A dramatic new view of the center of the Milky Way galaxy from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has exposed new levels of the complexity and intrigue in the Galactic center.
The 88 Chandra pointings represents a freeze-frame of the spectacle of stellar evolution, from bright young stars to black holes, in a crowded, hostile environment dominated by a central, supermassive black hole.
Permeating the region is a diffuse haze of X-ray light from gas that has been heated to millions of degrees by winds from massive young stars - which appear to form more frequently here than elsewhere in the Galaxy - explosions of dying stars, and outflows powered by the supermassive black hole - known as Sagittarius A*.
Data from Chandra and other X-ray telescopes suggest that giant X-ray flares from this black hole occurred about 50 and about 300 years earlier.
The area around Sgr A* also contains several mysterious X-ray filaments.
Some of these likely represent huge magnetic structures interacting with streams of very energetic electrons produced by rapidly spinning neutron stars or perhaps by a gigantic analog of a solar flare.
Scattered throughout the region are thousands of point-like X-ray sources.
These are produced by normal stars feeding material onto the compact, dense remains of stars that have reached the end of their evolutionary trail - white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes.
Because X-rays penetrate the gas and dust that blocks optical light coming from the center of the galaxy, Chandra is a powerful tool for studying the Galactic Center. (ANI)