Chandra spies the supermassive black hole at the centre of our Galaxy
Astronomers at the Chandra X-ray Observatory have released this capture of a vibrant cosmic dance at the centre of our Galaxy.
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A beautiful composite image of X-ray (shown in green) and radio data (shown in red) exposes the very heart of the Milky Way.
The brightest part on the far right of the image is a supermassive black hole – Sagittarius A* – four million times the mass of the Sun.
The turmoil of the cosmos is evident in this scene. Clouds of gas billow over neutron stars; white dwarf stars strip material away from companion stars and tendrils of radio emissions lash out and coil around the galactic heart.
Despite the apparent chaos at the centre of our galaxy, Sagittarius A* is considered to be a relatively ‘quiet’ resident, compared to the black holes in other galaxies.
The strong magnetic fields surrounding the supermassive black hole direct material away from its all-consuming centre, rationing its supply of interstellar matter.
Scientists believe this could explain why Sagittarius A* is so quiet and other black holes are so active.
Iain Todd is BBC Sky at Night Magazine's Content Editor. He fell in love with the night sky when he caught his first glimpse of Orion, aged 10.