Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2001 July 25
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Hot Gas Halo Detected Around Galaxy NGC 4631
Credit: Daniel Wang (U. Mass.) et al., Chandra, NASA

Explanation: Is our Milky Way Galaxy surrounded by a halo of hot gas? A step toward solving this long-standing mystery was taken recently with Chandra X-ray observations of nearby galaxy NGC 4631. In the above composite picture, newly resolved diffuse X-ray emission is shown in blue, superposed on an HST image showing massive stars in red. Since NGC 4631 is similar to the Milky Way, this observation indicates that our own Galaxy is indeed surrounded by a halo of hot X-ray emitting gas, although we are too close to clearly differentiate it from more nearby extended X-ray sources. The clusters of massive stars probably heat the halo gas. Exactly how this gas gets ejected into a halo is a topic of continuing research.

Tomorrow's picture: Totally Madagascar

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
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