NuSTAR Bringing the High Energy Universe into Focus


First Look at Milky Way's Monster in High-Energy X-ray Light


This is the first, focused high-energy X-ray view of the area surrounding the supermassive black hole, called Sagittarius A*, at the center of our galaxy. The image was taken by NASA's black-hole hunter, the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR. Different X-ray energies have been assigned colors to make the composite images shown here.

While Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A* for short, is huge -- about 4 million times the mass of our sun -- it's actually smaller than typical black holes situated at the centers of galaxies. Sgr A* is also a lot quieter than other supermassive black holes, only nibbling on fuel, such as stars, gas clouds, comets or asteroids -- or not eating at all. The black hole's eating habits are still largely a mystery, which NuSTAR's new views will help address.

The brightest white dot is the hottest material located closest to the black hole, and the surrounding pinkish blob is hot gas, likely belonging to a nearby supernova remnant.

The image is composed of light seen at four different X-ray energies. Blue light represents energies of 10 to 30 kiloelectron volts (keV); green is 7 to 10 keV; and red is 3 to 7 keV.