Enormous X-ray Picture Encompasses Half of the Universe, Including a Million Entities

Using the eROSITA space telescope, astronomers have successfully mapped out half of the universe in X-ray light. This new map, containing almost a million X-ray sources, has become the basis for numerous new scientific papers.

eROSITA, a soft X-ray imaging telescope, is located at the Lagrange Point 2, similar to the James Webb Space Telescope. The primary objective of eROSITA was to scan the entire sky at X-ray wavelengths. This would allow the detection of new galaxies, clusters, supermassive black holes, and other celestial objects. It would also aid in studying massive structures and measuring dark energy, a mysterious force that is accelerating the expansion of the universe.

This first official data release, named the eROSITA All-Sky Survey Catalogue (eRASS1), was compiled from data collected by the telescope from December 12, 2019, to June 11, 2020. During this period, eROSITA captured 170 million individual X-ray photons. By measuring the energy and arrival time of each photon, a comprehensive map of the cosmos could be created.

The map covers half of the night sky – the western hemisphere – and contains over 900,000 X-ray sources. This includes about 710,000 supermassive black holes that are feeding on matter at the center of galaxies, 180,000 X-ray-emitting stars in the Milky Way, and 12,000 galaxy clusters. In addition, there are less common objects like pulsars, supernova remnants, binary stars, and other X-ray sources.

Andrea Merloni, eROSITA principal investigator, stated, “These are mind-blowing numbers for X-ray astronomy. We’ve detected more sources in six months than the big flagship missions XMM-Newton and Chandra have done in nearly 25 years of operation.”

Accompanying this first significant public data release are nearly 50 newly published papers based on eRASS1. These papers include the discovery of over 1,000 galaxy superclusters, a 42 million light-year-long filament of gas connecting two clusters, and studies on how X-ray emissions from stars may affect the habitability of their planets. Other research includes studies of X-rays from supernova remnants, stars, and other objects.

eROSITA conducted three additional scans of the sky between June 2020 and February 2022, prior to the suspension of the joint German-Russian project due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The data from these later scans will be made available in the near future.

In conclusion, the eROSITA space telescope has contributed significantly to the field of X-ray astronomy by providing detailed mapping of the universe. This data has not only facilitated numerous scientific papers but also promises more in the future.

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