ESA XMM-Newton has X-rayed a strange and beautiful cosmic creature

Credit image: S. Safi-Harb et al (2022)/ESA
Credit image: S. Safi-Harb et al (2022)/ESA

Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 04 July 2022, at 10:07 am Los Angeles time

ESA's XMM-Newton x-rayed a strange and beautiful cosmic creature called the Manatee Nebula.

XMM's scientific observations, in addition to making this beautiful image of the nebula, detected the location of the unusual acceleration of the particles in its "head".

It was previously thought that the nebula was a large remnant of a supernova that was created in turn by a star that exploded nearly 30,000 years ago.

The unusually strange thing about this remnant of the supernova is that it houses a black hole in its core.

"This central 'microquasar', known as SS 433, emits powerful jets of particles traveling at speeds close to a quarter the speed of light that punch through the gassy shells, creating the double-lobed shape," said the European Space Agency.

SS 433 is represented by a small red dot near the center of the image.

The data obtained by XMM-Newton can be seen throughout the image, represented by yellow (soft X-rays), magenta (medium-energy X-rays), and cyan (hard X-ray emission).

In addition, red is radio and green optical wavelengths imaged by the Very Large Array and the Skinakas Observatory in Greece.

NuSTAR and Chandra were also used for the study, but are not shown in the image.

"The nebula attracted attention in 2018 when the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov Observatory, which is sensitive to very high energy gamma-ray photons, revealed the presence of highly energetic particles (hundreds of tera electron volts), but could not pinpoint from where within the Manatee the particles were originating," explains ESA.

Finally, XMM-Newton detected the region of particle acceleration in the X-ray explosion in the manatee's head, which begins about 100 light-years away from the microquasar and extends to about 300 light-years.

"Thanks to the new XMM-Newton data, supplemented with NuSTAR and Chandra data, we believe the particles are getting accelerated to very high energies in the head of the Manatee through an unusually energetic particle acceleration process. The black hole outflow likely made its way there and has been re-energized to high-energy radiation at that location, perhaps due to shock waves in the expanding gas clouds and enhanced magnetic fields," says Samar Safi-Harb of the University of Manitoba, Canada, who led the study.

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