science and nature

This is what our universe looks like to x-ray eyes

This is what our universe looks like to x-ray eyes

MPE/IKI

By Daniel Clery

A telescope designed to study the universe’s mysterious dark energy released its first all-sky image today (pictured), showing what we would see if we had x-ray eyes. After half a year of observing, the scope—known as eROSITA (extended Roentgen Survey with an Imaging Telescope Array)—has already logged more than 1 million objects that shine in the x-ray spectrum, including black holes gobbling matter, compact burned-out stars like white dwarfs and neutron stars, and gas between stars so hot that it gives off an x-ray glow. The eROSITA team says this first image identifies twice as many x-ray sources as have previously been detected in 60 years of x-ray astronomy, and stretches four times farther out than the previous x-ray survey 3 decades ago. Most of the dots in the image—and eROSITA’s primary targets—are supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies gorging on gas that, in the process, gets so hot that its glow can be seen across the universe. The project’s 4-year goal is to map the positions of millions of such galaxies to understand how gravity gloms them together in 1000-strong clusters. The mission also hopes to help explain how the mysterious force known as dark energy acts counter to gravity, pushing matter apart and accelerating the expansion of the universe.

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