Astronomy Picture of the Day

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

December 30, 1995

LMC X-1: A Black Hole Candidate

Explanation: The strongest source of X-rays in the Large Magellanic Cloud originates from an unusually energetic binary star system. This strong source, dubbed LMC X-1, is thought to be a normal and compact star orbiting each other. Gas stripped of the normal star falls onto the compact star, heats up, and emits X-rays. The X-rays shining from the system knock electrons off atoms for light years around, causing some atoms to glow noticeably in X-rays when the electrons re-combine. Motion in the binary system indicates the compact star is probably a black hole, since its high mass - roughly five times that of our Sun - should be enough to cause even a neutron star to implode.

Tomorrow's picture: The X-ray Sources of M31

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (GMU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA).
NASA Technical Rep.: Sherri Calvo. Specific rights apply.
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