In well-known photos, the Chandra X-ray Observatory unveils new details.
X-ray vision has improved four of the first photographs from NASA’s newest observatory that are of a scientifically significant level.
Despite being the most powerful space telescope ever created, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) isn’t going to study the cosmos in isolation, as shown by a new collaboration with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. In fact, it might work best in combination with other instruments.
JWST is built to view the universe in infrared, therefore its work is especially benefited when paired with tools that view space in various light spectrums, like Chandra’s X-ray vision. According to a NASA release, new features that were not apparent to JWST alone are revealed in the first photos that have been upgraded with Chandra X-ray data.
Think about the scene in Stephan’s Quintet, where four galaxies are entangled in a challenging gravitational dance while a fifth galaxy is watching from a distance.
These galaxies’ JWST image revealed characteristics that astronomers had never before observed, especially the results of their interactions like gas tails and bursts of vigorous star creation. The studies of Stephan’s Quintet showed a previously unknown shock wave heating gas to tens of millions of degrees on any scale when paired with information from Chandra and NASA’s decommissioned Spitzer Space Telescope. One of the galaxies causes this shock wave by slicing through the others at about 2 million mph (3 million kph).
The far-off Cartwheel galaxy, another object that the JWST observed, similarly depends on cosmic collisions. When this galaxy and a smaller galaxy collided 100 million years ago, it gave rise to its distinctive shape. A period of intensive star production began as the smaller galaxy tore through the centre of the Cartwheel galaxy. Data from Chandra show that superheated gas, individual burst stars, neutron stars, and black holes that are voraciously consuming companion star matter are all responsible for the X-ray emission in the Cartwheel galaxy.
The galaxy cluster SMACS J0723, which is 4.2 billion light-years away from Earth, was captured in one of JWST’s initial photographs, which was possibly the most brilliant. Gas heated to tens of millions of degrees on any scale is revealed by Chandra’s addition to these observations.
Numerous galaxies reside in clusters like SMACS J0723, which also contain enormous gas reservoirs that are extremely hot. The overall mass of the gas discovered by the JWST and Chandra collaboration is thought to be close to 100 trillion times that of the sun. That is a lot more than the combined mass of all the stars in the cluster’s galaxies.
(Despite this, there is still more to discover. Although dark matter makes up a greater portion of the cluster’s mass than gas does, it does not interact with light and is therefore invisible, even with the combined power of the JWST and Chandra.)
The Cosmic Cliffs of the Carina Nebula near the edge of the star-forming area of NGC 3324, undoubtedly the most magnificent image in the initial group of JWST photographs, completes the quartet of new pictures.
More than a dozen X-ray sources, most of which are stars in the periphery of a star cluster in the Carina Nebula, can be seen in the Chandra image of these cliffs, which are situated around 7,600 light-years from Earth. In cosmic terms, these stars, which range in age from a million to two million years, are quite young. These young stars emit more light in the X-ray spectrum than their older counterparts. To find young stars in the Carina Nebula and separate them from older Milky Way stars that might be lurking in JWST’s line of sight, Chandra’s data is especially useful in this situation.
The most massive and brightest stars in the area, which are just beyond the image’s field of view, are presumably the source of the diffuse X-ray emission that is visible in the top half of the Chandra-enhanced image of the Carina Nebula.
JWST will work with both telescopes stationed on Earth as well as other space-based equipment like Chandra during its operating lifetime, which was originally intended to last five years but may last more like twenty. The brand-new pictures demonstrate how crucial these partnerships will be to astronomy in the years to come.