Unusual ionized structures in the vicinity of a superbright X-ray source

(ORDO NEWS) — Using the Very Large Telescope, French astronomers made spectroscopic observations of a superluminous X-ray source called NGC 1313 X-1.

The observational campaign made it possible to detect a bubble ionized by the shock wave, a nebula ionized by X-rays, and two objects that turned out to be supernova remnants in the vicinity of this source.

Superbright X-ray sources are point sources in the sky that emit more radiation than 1 million suns emit in all wavelengths. The underlying nature of these sources is still a mystery to scientists.

NGC 1313 X-1 is a superluminous X-ray source located in the spiral galaxy NGC 1313, about 13.85 light-years from Earth. This ultra-bright X-ray source is located in the northern part of the galaxy NGC 1313, no more than about 3100 light-years from the center of the galaxy.

Previous observations of this source have shown that it is only one of several known superluminous X-ray sources capable of experiencing powerful winds at relatively high speeds. This indicates that NGC 1313 X–1 has a supercritical accreting source of unknown nature.

It was assumed that such winds were powerful enough to form giant bubbles (over 300 light-years in size), sometimes observed around superluminous X-ray sources.

A team of astronomers led by Andrés Gúrpide of the University of Toulouse, France, has now been able to show that the source NGC 1313 X-1 is actually surrounded by an ionized bubble, as suggested by previous studies.

These new findings were made using the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument of the Very Large Telescope.

These observations showed that around the source NGC 1313 X-1, a region measuring approximately 1473 by 867 light-years was ionized by ultraviolet radiation and shock waves. This bubble approximately uniformly surrounds the center of the superbright X-ray source and is clearly visible on its periphery.

What’s more, astronomers have also discovered a vast X-ray ionized nebula around this source, about 456 light-years across, that lies inside the bubble. The elongated shape of this nebula may indicate the presence of jets.

In addition, the scientists found two objects that turned out to be supernova remnants, which coincidentally lay in the vicinity of the bubble of this superbright x-ray source. According to the authors, the supernova explosions that formed these objects occurred between 24,000 and 34,000 years ago.

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