A unique telescope, the eROSITA X-ray Telescope, hunts for galaxies and recently completed its half-year mission. Astronomers shared captivating images of supernovas and blackholes; part of an entire map with more than one million cosmic beings.
The eROSITA X-ray Telescope has been gathering data for only about half a year, yet was able to make discoveries twice as much as other X-ray telescopes have gathered in the last 60 years. The spectacular map includes detailed imaging of the Milky Way's hot gas, nebulas, black holes, binary stars, and other cosmic objects within the universe. It is four times the depth of previous space maps.
German and Russian astronomers worked together to begin the telescope's mission last year. 'We built eROSITA to transform the way we see the X-ray sky, and to unravel the mysteries of cosmology and black holes,' said Peter Predehl, the principal investigator of the X-ray telescope at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany (MPE).
'This all-sky image completely changes the way we look at the energetic universe,' Predehl said in a recent press release. The images are unique because eROSITA traced the thermal energy of the sky. Galaxies appear in clusters, looking like bright, vivid halos because of concentrations of dark matter which confine hot gases.
Almost 80% of the image consists of supermassive black holes, our active galactic nuclei, which consume dark space material in the middle of galaxies. As the one million space objects emit X-rays, known as X-ray sources, the team had to sort through about 165 gigabytes of data from the telescope's seven cameras to put together
Within the Milky Way, eROSITA captured ancient white dwarves, supernova remnants, stars with hot, active coronae, neighboring galaxies like the Magellanic Clouds. Mara Salvato, the lead scientist at MPE said that they all eagerly await eROSITA'S complete, all-sky map. Previously, telescopes have measured the sky at other wavelengths and the new X-ray images can match those discoveries. Predehl describes the stunning images as a 'wealth of detail.'
More surveys are needed for X-ray sources to be identified so that astronomers can understand their nature better. Rare phenomena were also captured: stars swallowed by black holes, merging neutron stars, and thermal readings from compact objects, which eROSITA picked up as 'unexpected bursts of X-rays.' 'We need to alert ground-based telescopes immediately to understand what's producing them,' said Salvato.
Russian Scientist Rashid Sunyaev said that their second survey will soon begin until the end of the year. The team plans to create seven similar maps within the next 3.5 years. 'Their combined sensitivity will be a factor of five better and will be used by astrophysicists and cosmologists for decades,' said Sunyaev.
Kirpal Nandra, head of the high-energy astrophysics group at MPE said that the work eROSITA has accomplished just revolutionized X-ray astronomy. The team is anticipating much more in the near future.
'This combination of sky area and depth is transformational. We are already sampling a cosmological volume of the hot universe much larger than has been possible before. Over the next few years, we'll be able to probe even further, out to where the first giant cosmic structures and supermassive black holes were forming.'