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.

2003 February 6
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X-Rays from M83
Credit: R.Soria & K.Wu (MSSL, UCL) CXC, NASA

Explanation: Bright and beautiful spiral galaxy M83 lies a mere twelve million light-years from Earth, toward the headstrong constellation Hydra. Sweeping spiral arms, prominent in visible light images, lend this galaxy its popular moniker -- the Southern Pinwheel. In fact, the spiral arms are still apparent in this Chandra Observatory false-color x-ray image of M83, traced by diffuse, hot, x-ray emitting gas. But more striking in the x-ray image is the galaxy's bright central region. The central emission likely represents even hotter gas created by a sudden burst of massive star formation. Point-like neutron star and black hole x-ray sources, final stages in the life cycles of massive stars, also show a concentration near the center of M83 and offer further evidence for a burst of star formation at this galaxy's core. Light from this burst of star formation would have first reached Earth some 20 million years ago.

Tomorrow's picture: constellation quiz

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
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