NASA researchers have discovered a new universe treasure map, and thanks to a neutron star hunting telescope on the International Space Station, X-rays mark that location.
The new full sky map uploaded to NASA’s website on May 30 shows how the cosmos is seen in high-energy X-rays. X-rays are one of the most energetic forms of light in the universe. They radiate indoors from some of the most extreme objects in the room, including strong supernova explosions, neutron gas stars, and black holes that suck up material almost at the speed of light.
People can see the curvature of this light to move the room (for our vision too much weaker, the visible part of the light from the electromagnetic spectrum is limited), but special X-ray observatories, NASA can board the International Space Station. Known as the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), the telescope’s main mission is to study pulsars – spinning fast, ultra-dense corpses, collapsing stars pulsing with high-energy light when spinning.
Researchers not only hope to understand exactly what these star objects are, but also want to use them as waypoints that can help satellites in the future navigate autopilot – a kind of galaxy GPS system as NASA’s instructions.
Looking for the next pulsar in the night sky, Nicer also found several powerful X-ray sources, including a relatively new supernova sledsvetyavaneto (in the upper left corner of the image).
“This picture shows Cygnus Loop, the remaining supernovae are about 90 light years old, and are believed to be between 5,000 and 8,000 years old,” said Keith Gendro, NICER Chief Investigator at the Goddard Space Center in Maryland. “We are gradually building new X-rays from all over the sky, and the possibility of NICER’s nighttime operation will find previously unknown sources.”
In fact, this map represents only the first 22 months of NICER’s orbital observations (launched in June 2017) and may only be scratched on the surface of a star that hides many secrets outside of human eyes.