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A Nearby Elliptical Galaxy With An Active Galactic Nucleus

A Nearby Elliptical Galaxy With An Active Galactic Nucleus

First observed by Chandra in September 1999, Centaurus A was an early demonstration of the spectacular science this powerful X-ray observatory could do. Astronomers continue to use Chandra to study this elliptical galaxy (also known as NGC 5128) that contains a spectacular jet and a core teeming with X-ray emitting sources.

This 2001 Chandra image of Cen A shows a bright central source: the Active Galactic Nucleus (AGN) suspected of harboring a supermassive black hole. Chandra also detects a jet emanating from the core and numerous point-like X-ray sources, all bathed in diffuse X-rays produced by several-million-degree gas that fills the galaxy. The unprecedented imaging resolution of Chandra allows scientists for the first time to clearly resolve each of these distinct components of the X-ray emission for detailed study.

Over 200 point-like X-ray sources have been identified and studied in Cen A. Because of their distribution around the center of the galaxy, it is believed that most of these sources are X-ray binaries in which a neutron star or stellar-sized black hole is accreting matter from a nearby companion star. A few may be supernova remnants or unrelated, more distant background galaxies. Comparison of Cen A's X-ray binary population with populations in other galaxies is important for understanding the evolutionary history of galaxies.

This year, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory celebrates its 20th year in space exploring the extreme universe.

Credit: NASA/SAO/R.Kraft et al.

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Photo taken on 11 October 2019 (© NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center / Flickr)

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 nasa, nasa's marshall space flight center, nasa marshall, marshall, msfc, chandra x-ray observatory, cxo, solar system & beyond, astronomy, astrophysics, x-ray, galaxy, supermassive black hole, black hole, centaurus a

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