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Recent Podcast
Tour: Chandra Sees Evidence for Possible Planet in Another Galaxy
Tour: Chandra Sees Evidence for Possible Planet in Another Galaxy
Astronomers have found evidence for a possible planet candidate in the M51 ("Whirlpool") galaxy, representing what could be the first planet detected outside of the Milky Way. (2021-10-25)

A Tour of J0045+41 in M31

Narrator (April Jubett, CXC): The term "photobomb" means for someone or something to unexpectedly appear in an image. While this is generally used for pictures of celebrities or selfies with friends, it turns out that the universe can have photobombs as well.

A new result using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ground-based optical telescopes reveals a photobomb in the nearby Andromeda galaxy. While looking for other types of objects, a team of researchers from the University of Washington noticed one particularly unusual source in this sister spiral galaxy to the Milky Way. While previous scientists had classified this object, known as J0045+41, as a pair of orbiting stars within Andromeda, the researchers decided to take a closer look.

They discovered that J0045+41 was not in Andromeda at all. Instead, J0045+41 was about a thousand times farther away at a distance of some 2.6 billion light years from Earth. They also used the X-ray and optical data to uncover that this was not a pair of stars, but may instead be a duo of supermassive black holes. The researchers estimated that these black holes together contain about 200 million times the mass of the Sun, yet were separated by less than one hundredth of one light year. By comparison, the nearest star to the Sun is over four light years away.

They might take cameras bigger than your smartphone's and instruments that are in space, but the photobombs from the cosmos can be just as entertaining — and even informative.

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