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Andromeda’s bright X-ray mystery solved by NuSTAR

24 March 2017 Astronomy Now

The Milky Way’s closest neighbor, Andromeda, features a dominant source of high-energy X-ray emission, but its identity was mysterious until now. As reported in a new study, NASA’s NuSTAR mission has pinpointed an object responsible for this high-energy radiation.

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Mind the gap: ‘Rapid Burster’ behaviour explained

7 February 2017 Stephen Clark

Scientists observing a curious neutron star in a binary system known as the ‘Rapid Burster’ may have solved a forty-year-old mystery surrounding its puzzling X-ray bursts. They discovered that its magnetic field creates a gap around the star, largely preventing it from feeding on matter from its stellar companion.

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NuSTAR finds new clues to ‘chameleon supernova’

25 January 2017 Stephen Clark

“We’re made of star stuff,” astronomer Carl Sagan famously said. Nuclear reactions that happened in ancient stars generated much of the material that makes up our bodies, our planet and our solar system. When stars explode in violent deaths called supernovae, those newly formed elements escape and spread out in the universe.

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Black holes hide in our cosmic backyard

10 January 2017 Stephen Clark

Monster black holes sometimes lurk behind gas and dust, hiding from the gaze of most telescopes. But they give themselves away when material they feed on emits high-energy X-rays that NASA’s NuSTAR mission can detect. That’s how NuSTAR recently identified two gas-enshrouded supermassive black holes, located at the centers of nearby galaxies.

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Starvation diet for supermassive black hole dims brilliant galaxy

10 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers may have solved the mystery of the peculiar volatile behaviour of a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy known as Markarian 1018 some 590 million light-years away. Combined data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other observatories suggest that the black hole is no longer being fed enough fuel to make its surroundings shine brightly.

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Young magnetar likely slowest pulsar ever detected

9 September 2016 Astronomy Now

Using X-ray observatories, astronomers have found evidence for what is likely one of the most extreme pulsars, or rotating neutron stars, ever detected. The source exhibits properties of a highly magnetised neutron star, or magnetar, yet its deduced spin period of 6⅔ hours is thousands of times longer than any pulsar ever observed.

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Chorus of black holes sings in X-rays

31 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Supermassive black holes do not give off any of their own light, hence the word “black” in their name. However, many black holes pull in surrounding material and emit powerful bursts of X-rays. Collectively, these active black holes can be thought of a cosmic choir, singing in the language of X-rays. Their “song” is what astronomers call the cosmic X-ray background.

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Andromeda Galaxy scanned with high-energy X-ray vision

6 January 2016 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has captured the best high-energy X-ray view yet of a portion of the Andromeda Galaxy, our nearest large neighbouring spiral galaxy. The space observatory has observed 40 “X-ray binaries” — intense sources of X-rays comprising a black hole or neutron star that feeds off a stellar companion.