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A galaxy torn apart blasts out a six-million-degree scream

29 May 2019, 13:00 UTC
A galaxy torn apart blasts out a six-million-degree scream X-ray: NASA/CXC/Huntingdon Inst. for X-ray Astronomy/G.Garmire, Optical: ESO/VLT

Serendipity has a role in astronomy.

An astronomer, Gordon Garmire, noticed that the face-on spiral galaxy NGC 1232 had never been observed in X-rays before. At a distance of just 60 million light years (I know, "just," but that's not too far away as galaxies go) the Chandra X-ray Observatory should be able to see about 100 point sources; that is, unresolved sources of X-rays like black holes gobbling down matter, fiercely hot magnetic neutron stars, gas from exploding stars, and the like.

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