Third catalogue of XMM-Newton data
In 2009, a team of researchers at the IRAP astrophysics and planetology research institute, supported by CNES, used the XMM-Newton space telescope to identify a black hole 500 times more massive than the Sun - a world first. In 2010, scientists discovered a young black hole and in 2011 the oldest galaxy cluster ever observed.
“Previous versions of the XMM-Newton catalogue have yielded unexpected and exciting results,” notes Nathalie Webb, a researcher at IRAP in Toulouse and the new coordinator of the XMM Survey Science Centre (SSC). “And with around 50% more data now available, there should be plenty more to come.”
Operating in Earth orbit to detect celestial X-ray sources, XMM-Newton is adding to its catalogue all the time. Today, the third XMM-Newton Serendipitous Source Catalogue contains more than 500,000 objects. Thanks to its highly sensitive EPIC1 cameras, the space telescope is able to detect the faintest X-ray sources from galaxies sometimes billions of light-years2 from Earth - in other words, from the outer reaches of the Universe.
500,000 X-ray sources recorded
The 500,000-plus objects recorded in the catalogue include distant galaxy clusters, binary stars or nearby active stars, and above all a large majority of active galactic nuclei very probably with a supermassive black hole at their centre.
More rare and powerful events include X-ray emissions resulting from stars being torn apart as they are swallowed by a black hole.
The XMM-Newton catalogue is an exceptional database helping scientists to solve some of the mysteries surrounding black holes and the origins of the Universe.
“I am very happy that the SSC continues to play a key role in compiling these catalogues, as they are an important showcase for the kind of science that can be done with the European XMM-Newton satellite,” concludes Nathalie Webb.
1 European Photon Imaging Camera
2 A light-year is the distance travelled by light in one year, i.e. about 10,000 billion km
- Responsible for the CNES Astrophysics programs : Olivier La Marle