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NASA: Chandra Discovers Mysterious X-Ray Flare-Emitting Objects

Oct 21, 2016 09:21 AM EDT

It's as if the universe is also preparing for Christmas. At first glance, the series of photos of the mysterious X-rays look like blinking lights, but the difference is, they are found deep in space.

The image shows where a flare erupts and then suddenly turns dim again with its X-ray emissions. Experts say this is something that hasn't been observed before and thus may become the first evidence of a new space phenomenon.

There are two of these flare-emitting mysterious objects found in the elliptical galaxy. They are known as NGC 5128 (Centaurus A) and NGC 4636. The observation was made possible with the help of the Chandra X-ray observatory. The equipment captured the image of NGC 5128 showing different stages of X-ray emission starting from low, medium and high. They vary in color, including blue, red and green. The varying intensity of its flares makes it appear blinking like a light if viewed from a distance far away, like from the Earth's point of view.

What's more interesting is that the changing intensity of the flares occurs in just under a minute. The emissions start from low to high-intensity and then it goes back to its original level of brightness in about an hour after the flare.

 During the peak of X-ray brightness, the brightest intensity of the x-ray can be observed from the object also known as ultraluminous X-ray sources (ULXs). This means that any objects under the category are capable of emitting more volume of X-rays compared to the usual amount excreted by X-ray binary systems including those systems with a neuron star or a star orbiting a black hole.

This phenomenon baffles astronomers. The observatory managed to detect five consistent flares from NGC 5128, located about 12 million light-years away. From the captured images, the rise and fall of the intensity and brightness of the X-ray emissions can be obviously observed.

Some believe that it can also be construed as another object because reports say, there are magnetars of neutron stars who can fire repeated flares, almost the same as what have been observed by the Chandra observatory. However, the location of the one found recently is questionable since it doesn't fall under the location where magnetars are usually observed. This fact adds to the mystery of the object.


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