NGC 1553/Chandra
Credit: NASA/CXC/UVa/E.Blanton et al.

Where Stellar Monsters Once Ruled

Elliptical galaxies are thought to represent old populations of low-mass stars, with little gas and dust and no active star formation. But new observations with the Chandra X-ray Observatory have found evidence that, eons ago, these galaxies were more active and dynamic places. The above Chandra X-ray image of the lenticular galaxy (an elliptical with a disk of old-type stars) NGC 1553 shows a group of point-sources along with diffuse emission from hot gas in the galaxy. The point sources are probably X-ray binaries consisting of neutron stars or black holes and a normal stellar companion which feeds the compact object. These compact objects represent the endpoint of the evolution of very massive stars which must have at one time existed in abundance in NGC 1553. The Chandra image also reveals a bright source near the center of the galaxy. Astronomers suspect that this object is a supermassive black hole.

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified June 17, 2002