Scientists shocked by ‘X-Ray Heaters’ in Andromeda Galaxy

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Researchers from NASA were stunned to find massive amounts of X-ray energy coming from the nearby Andromeda Galaxy.

A team of NASA researchers working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA has made a stunning discovery. According to a report from Discovery News, scientists working with the NuSTAR telescope, or the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, have spotted 40 X-ray binary objects that could be responsible for heating up interstellar gases.

The discovery could lead to further insight into how galaxies form and evolve. The telescope is capable of detecting extremely high-energy X-rays, and astronomers were stunned by the amount of activity coming from one of our galactic neighbors, the Andromeda Galaxy (M31).

Andromeda is similar to the Milky Way in that it is a massive, sprawling spiral of stars spinning around a central point. Located roughly 2.5 million light-years away, Andromeda is the closest spiral galaxy to the Milky Way. The galaxy’s proximity to the Earth has allowed NuSTAR scientists to research its X-ray emissions in stunning detail. The new findings were presented yesterday at the 227th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Kissimmee, FL.

Because Andromeda is so close and similar to the Milky Way, it provides a good model of how other similar galaxies farther away might behave.

According to Daniel Wik, a researcher from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, “Andromeda is the only large spiral galaxy where we can see individual X-ray binaries and study them in detail in an environment like our own. We can then use this information to deduce what’s going on in more distant galaxies, which are harder to see.”

An X-ray binary is made up of two different objects, usually a star and a remnant of a past star, like a neutron star or a black hole. As their relative gravities force them to dance around one another, the star remnant siphons plasma from the living star. This gas heats up rapidly as it travels towards the center of a black hole, releasing massive amounts of X-ray energy.

The discovery will help scientists figure out how X-ray binaries contribute to the overall X-ray emissions of distant galaxies, offering new insights into their stellar makeup.

A NASA press release outlining the details of the discovery can be found here.

Daniel J. Brown

Daniel J. Brown (Editor-in-Chief) is a recently retired data analyst who gets a kick out of reading and writing the news. He enjoys good music, great food, and sports, with a slant towards Southern college football, basketball and professional baseball.

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