This 360-movie offers an unparalleled opportunity to look around the center of the galaxy, from the vantage point of the central supermassive black hole, in any direction the user chooses.
By combining NASA Ames supercomputer simulations with data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the visualization provides a unique perspective of what is happening in and around the center of the Milky Way. It shows the effects of dozens of massive stellar giants with fierce winds blowing off their surfaces in the region a few light years away from the supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A* for short).
These winds provide a buffet of material for the supermassive black hole to potentially feed upon. As in a previous visualization, the viewer can observe dense clumps of material streaming toward Sgr A*. These clumps formed when winds from the massive stars near Sgr A* collide. Along with watching the motion of these clumps, viewers can watch as relatively low-density gas falls toward Sgr A*. In this new visualization, the blue and cyan colors represent X-ray emission from hot gas, with temperatures of tens of millions of degrees; red shows moderately dense regions of cooler gas, with temperatures of tens of thousands of degrees; and yellow shows of the cooler gas with the highest densities.
A collection of X-ray-emitting gas is seen to move slowly when it is far away from Sgr A*, and then pick up speed and whip around the viewer as it comes inwards. Sometimes clumps of gas will collide with gas ejected by other stars, resulting in a flash of X-rays when the gas is heated up, and then it quickly cools down. Farther away from the viewer, the movie also shows collisions of fast stellar winds producing X-rays. These collisions are thought to provide the dominant source of hot gas that is seen by Chandra.
When an outburst occurs from gas very near the black hole, the ejected gas collides with material flowing away from the massive stars in winds, pushing this material backwards and causing it to glow in X-rays. When the outburst dies down the winds return to normal and the X-rays fade.
More information at https://chandra.si.edu/photo/2019/gcenter/
This earlier visualization built on infrared data with the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope of 30 massive stellar giants called Wolf-Rayet stars that orbit within about 1.5 light years of the center of our Galaxy. Powerful winds of gas streaming from the surface of these stars are carrying some of their outer layers into interstellar space. When the outflowing gas collides with previously ejected detritus from other stars, the collisions produce shock waves, similar to sonic booms, which permeate the area. These shock waves heat the gas to millions of degrees, which causes it to glow in X-rays. Extensive observations with Chandra of the central regions of the Milky Way have provided critical data about the temperature and distribution of this multimillion-degree gas.
New! Now available is "Galactic Center VR," a fully-immersive VR app of the Galactic Center dataset compatible with HTC Vive. Find it free in the Steam and Viveport virtual reality (VR) stores. Find out more about this app in our blog post.
"Galactic Center VR" (GCVR) transports you 26,000 light years away to the center of our Milky Way. This fully immersive VR experience lets you explore our NASA supercomputer simulations of the central three light years around Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), our galaxy's supermassive black hole. While the black hole is the region's dominant feature, the visual appeal comes from the complex structure of colliding winds from 25 massive stars, much of which is heated by shocks — akin to sonic booms from supersonic aircraft — to be aglow in X-rays and therefore studied with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.
Photo release for Galactic Center 360: