Extreme Universe In Focus:
The Largest Catalogue Of X-Ray Sources Created

24 July, 2013

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Follow us: - A new unprecedented catalogue for cosmic X-ray sources has been created by the XMM-Newton Survey Science Centre, led by Professor Mike Watson of the University of Leicester.

Scientists used the University's 'ALICE' supercomputer to help them produce a new X-ray catalogue, dubbed "3XMM".

"3XMM" - the largest catalogue of X-ray sources ever produced - represents a 50% increase over previous catalogues.

Sky distribution of the density of objects in the 3XMM catalogue, shown in Galactic coordinates. The inset shows a zoom of the small region indicated where the individual sources can be seen. Credit: ESA/XMM-Newton/EPIC/M. Watson (University of Leicester)

It will provide a valuable resource for astronomers exploring Universe and its most extreme phenomena such as tidal disruption events - when a black hole swallows another star, producing prodigious outbursts of X-ray emission.

"The catalogue contains more than half a million sources, all of which are provided to a better quality than ever before," Professor Watson said.

"The catalogue provides enormous scope for new discoveries as well as in-depth studies of large samples. XMM-Newton is pre-eminent amongst current X-ray missions in its ability to perform `survey' science, with a chance to find previously undetected objects and then explore their properties."

The catalogue is an exceptional dataset for generating large, well-defined samples of objects such as active galactic nuclei, clusters of galaxies, interacting compact binaries, and active stellar coronae.

Since Earth's atmosphere blocks out all X-rays, only a telescope in space can detect and study celestial X-ray sources.

The XMM-Newton mission is helping scientists to solve a number of cosmic mysteries, ranging from the enigmatic black holes to the origins of the Universe itself.

The sources in the 3XMM catalogue are identified and isolated from serendipitous data recorded by XMM-Newton's EPIC X-ray cameras, built by a team also led by the University.

In each of the 600-700 observations made each year, around 70 extra sources are captured in addition to the target object which usually only takes up a small fraction of the field of view.

As such it offers an unparalleled resource for exploring cosmic X-ray populations, in particular in studying Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) - those galaxies such as quasars which harbor a super-massive black hole at their centers," Watson said.

"Such active galaxies dominate the detections in the 3XMM catalogue, meaning that 3XMM is the key to unlocking a storehouse of several hundred thousand AGN."

See also:
Astronomical Mystery: Tremendous Explosion And Appearance Of Odd Rings

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