Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2001 July 25

Hot Gas Halo Detected Around Galaxy NGC 4631
Credit: Daniel Wang (U. Mass.) et al., Chandra, NASA

Explanation: Is our Milky Way Galaxy surrounded by a halo of hot gas? A step toward solving this long-standing mystery was taken recently with Chandra X-ray observations of nearby galaxy NGC 4631. In the above composite picture, newly resolved diffuse X-ray emission is shown in blue, superposed on a HST image showing massive stars in red. Since NGC 4631 is similar to the Milky Way, this observation indicates that our own Galaxy is indeed surrounded by a halo of hot X-ray emitting gas, although we are too close to clearly differentiate them from more nearby extended X-ray sources. The clusters of massive stars probably heat the halo gas. Exactly how this gas gets ejected into a halo is a topic of continuing research.

Tomorrow's picture: Totally Madagascar

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