For the first time since exoplanets were discovered nearly 20 years ago, X-rays have been used to picture an exoplanet passing in front of its parent star.
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency's XMM Newton Observatory on Monday observed the dip in X-ray intensity as the planet, HD 189733b, eclipsed its parent star in a system 63 light-years from Earth.
The X-ray image captured by Chandra, inserted in the illustration above, provides scientists a breadth of new information about the planet's properties and the environment it inhabits. The exoplanet itself cannot be seen in the Chandra image, as transits involve measuring small decreases in X-ray emission from the main star.
Launched on July 23, 1999, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is a telescope specifically designed to detect X-rays from high-energy regions of the universe such as such as exploded stars, clusters of galaxies, and matter around black holes. Click through this gallery to see some of the amazing images Chandra helped capture.
Planetary nebulas form when a red star like the sun becomes a red giant and sheds its outer layers. This composite image of planetary nebula NGC 2392, which is located about 4,2000 light-years from Earth, shows X-ray data from Chandra in purple and data from the Hubble Space Telescope in red, green, and blue. The X-ray data from Chandra shows the location of million-degree gas near the center of the planetary nebula, while Hubble captured the intricate pattern of the outer layers of the star that have been shed.
Caption byCarrie Mihalcik / Photo by NASA/CXC/IAA-CSIC/N.Ruiz et al. and NASA/STScI
By combining X-ray, optical, and radio data, astronomers were able to get a full picture of a giant black hole in the center of the galaxy 4C+29.30. The X-ray data from Chandra, shown in blue, near the center of the image marks a pool of million-degree gas around the black hole. Optical light obtained with Hubble is shown in gold, and radio waves from the NSF's Very Large Array are in pink.
Caption byCarrie Mihalcik / Photo by NASA/CXC/SAO/A.Siemiginowska et al. and NASA/STScI and NSF/NRAO/VLA
An image of SN 1006, captured from multiple pointings of Chandra’s field-of-view between July 2000 and 2012, shows the debris field that was created when a white dwarf star exploded, sending its material hurtling into space. In the image, low-, medium-, and high-energy X-rays are colored red, green, and blue respectively.
Chandra observations of the Small Magellanic Cloud, one of the closest galaxies to the Milky Way, resulted in the first detection of X-ray emission from young stars outside our galaxy with masses similar to our Sun. In this composite image Chandra data is shown in purple, optical data from the Hubble is shown in blue, and infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope is shown in red.
Caption byCarrie Mihalcik / Photo by NASA/CXC/Univ.Potsdam/L.Oskinova et al. and NASA/STScI abd NASA/JPL-Caltech
The remnant of Kepler’s supernova, the famous explosion discovered by German astronomer Johannes Kepler in 1604, is seen in this composite image. The low-, intermediate-, and high-energy X-rays captured by Chandra are shown in red, green, and blue respectively. The star field is from the Digitized Sky Survey.
This image was compiled from a long Chandra observation of a neutron star in 47 Tucanae, a globular cluster about 15,000 light-years away. Neutron stars, the ultra-dense cores left behind after a star collapses, contain the densest matter in the universe outside of a black hole.
Caption byCarrie Mihalcik / Photo by NASA/CXC/Michigan State/A.Steiner et al
W49B, a distorted supernova remnant, may contain one of the youngest black holes in the Milky Way galaxy. This composite image shows X-rays from Chandra in blue and green, radio data from the NSF's VLA in pink, and infrared data from Caltech's Palomar Observatory in yellow.
Caption byCarrie Mihalcik / Photo by NASA/CXC/MIT/L.Lopez et al. and Palomar and NSF/NRAO/VLA
DEM L50 is a "supperbubble" in the Large Magellanic Cloud about 160,000 light-years from Earth. This composite image shows X-rays from Chandra in pink and optical data from the Magellanic Cloud Emission Line Survey in red, green, and blue.
Caption byCarrie Mihalcik / Photo by NASA/CXC/Univ of Michigan/A.E.Jaskot and NOAO/CTIO/MCELS