Home / Science / Behold! This impressive art of light is actually a sky full of X-rays

Behold! This impressive art of light is actually a sky full of X-rays

An instrument on board the International Space Station He is painting the night skies with X-ray observations of the universe that surrounds us, and it produces an amazing image in the process.

The NASA device, called Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer, he arrived at the space station in June 2017. His job is to make incredibly precise measurements of the size of the neutron stars, the superdense bodies of stars that have exploded. The new image is based on the data collected during the first 22 months at work.

"Even with minimal processing, this image reveals the Cygnus Loop, a supernova remnant of approximately 90 light years and is thought to be between 5,000 and 8,000 years old," Keith Gendreau, principal investigator of the mission at the Goddard Space Flight Center from NASA in Maryland, he said in a statement.

Related: The space station robot installs Neutron Star Explorer: watch the time-lapse video

That feature is the bright spot that shines on the darker background towards the upper left corner of the image. Most of the other X-ray sources that are highlighted in the image are pulsars, which are a type of neutron star that produce X-ray jets as they spin.

As the space station orbits the Earth and pbades from day to night and back, NICER rotates to target different specific objectives, like these pulsars. The lines that arc along the image represent those changes, with brighter lines that mark the routes that the instrument follows more frequently in their investigations. Particular points on the map also appear brighter if NICER has spent more time looking in that direction.

The more time the instrument spends at work, the more scientists can complete this map, and that can be discovered. new pulsars for NICER to study that researchers do not yet know how to point the instrument towards.

"We are gradually building a new X-ray image of the entire sky, and it is possible that the NICER night sweeps will discover previously unknown sources," said Gendreau.

Send an email to Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her @meghanbartels. Follow us On twitter @Spacedotcom and in Facebook.

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