Using data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and other facilities, an international team has found the first gamma-ray binary in another galaxy and the most luminous one ever seen. The dual-star system, dubbed LMC P3, contains a massive star and a crushed stellar core that interact to produce a cyclic flood of gamma rays.
Two black holes in nearby galaxies have been observed in X-rays by ESA’s XMM-Newton space observatory devouring their companion stars at a rate exceeding classically understood limits, and in the process, kicking out matter into surrounding space at astonishing speeds of around a quarter the speed of light.
On 14 September 2015, gravitational waves produced by a pair of merging black holes gently rattled space-time in the vicinity of Earth. Less than half a second later, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope picked up a brief, weak burst of high-energy light consistent with the same part of the sky. Analysis of this burst suggests that the events are connected.
Supermassive black holes at the centres of galaxies can spawn tremendous bipolar jets extending over hundreds of thousands of light-years. A CfA study of the bright radio jet galaxy Pictoris suggests that bright X-ray emission from the jets is produced by rapidly moving charged particles in magnetic fields.
An extraordinary ribbon of hot gas trailing behind a galaxy like a tail has been discovered using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. This ribbon, or X-ray tail, is likely due to gas stripped from the galaxy as it moves through a vast cloud of hot intergalactic gas. With a length of at least 250,000 light-years, it is likely the largest such tail ever detected.
The Jellyfish Nebula, also known by its official name IC 443, is the remnant of a supernova lying 5,000 light-years from Earth. New observations from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory show that the explosion that created the Jellyfish Nebula may have also formed a peculiar object located on the southern edge of the remnant.
The baffling and strange behaviours of black holes have become somewhat less mysterious recently, with new observations from NASA’s Explorer missions Swift and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR. The two space telescopes caught a supermassive black hole known as Mrk 335 in the midst of a giant eruption of X-ray light.
In his third report from the Royal Astronomical Society’s NAM2015, Kulvinder Singh Chadha examines the Sun in X-ray and ultraviolet wavelengths from three different spacecraft, dons a virtual reality planetarium headset, and investigates if the proposed James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) could discern Earth-sized worlds that are habitable.