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December 30, 1995
LMC X-1: A Black Hole Candidate
The strongest source of X-rays in the
Large Magellanic Cloud originates
from an unusually energetic
binary star system. This strong source, dubbed
LMC X-1, is thought to be a normal and compact star orbiting each other.
Gas stripped of the normal star
falls onto the compact star, heats up, and
emits X-rays. The X-rays shining from the system knock electrons off atoms
for light years around, causing some atoms to glow noticeably in X-rays
when the electrons re-combine. Motion in the binary system indicates the
compact star is probably a
black hole, since its high mass -
roughly five times that of our
should be enough to cause even a
neutron star to implode.
Tomorrow's picture: The X-ray Sources of M31
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