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.

2006 July 29
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

The Swarm
Credit: M. P. Muno (UCLA) et al., CXC, NASA

Explanation: What do you call a group of black holes ... a flock, a brace, a swarm? Monitoring a region around the centre of our Galaxy, astronomers have indeed found evidence for a surprisingly large number of variable x-ray sources - likely black holes or neutron stars in binary star systems - swarming around the Milky Way's own central supermassive black hole. Chandra Observatory combined x-ray image data from their monitoring program is shown above, with four variable sources circled and labeled A-D. While four sources may not make a swarm, these all lie within only three light-years of the central supermassive black hole known as Sgr A* (the bright source just above C). Their detection implies that a much larger concentration of black hole systems is present. Repeated gravitational interactions with other stars are thought to cause the black hole systems to spiral inward toward the Galactic Centre region.

Tomorrow's picture: grander canyon

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