xray-galaxy

This is not a crazy space rainbow. It doesn’t lead to a pot of gold. This is, in fact, shimmering light echoes caused by X-rays, and it leads to the location of a neutron star.

They come from a specific neutron star called Circinus X-1, a binary star system on the galactic plane. The system consists of a neutron star — a collapsed giant star post-supernova on its way to becoming a black hole — in orbit around another supermassive star, which isn’t so unusual. What is unusual is that the neutron star exhibits X-ray jets normally only found in black holes.

It is these highly unusual jets that have allowed astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to pinpoint the star’s exact location. The paper is available online via arXiv.

“It’s really hard to get accurate distance measurements in astronomy and we only have a handful of methods,” said study leader Sebastian Heinz of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. “But just as bats use sonar to triangulate their location, we can use the X-rays from Circinus X-1 to figure out exactly where it is.”

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