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Astrophysics study explores mystery of ultraluminous X-ray sources

Published: 5 March 2018
Illustration
An ultraluminous X-ray source in the Whirlpool galaxy. Credit: NOAO/AURA/NSF/T.Boroson

An international research team, including astronomers from the University of Southampton, has found new clues that help explain extreme interstellar objects that glow with X-ray light equal in energy to millions of suns.

The study of ultraluminous X-ray sources (ULXs) tapped into data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to build understanding of how the sources can shine so brightly.

Astronomers have identified a fourth ULX as a neutron star through the project, the first to be discovered in the M51 Whirlpool Galaxy. Dr Matthew Middleton, from Southampton’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, has heralded the findings as a “major step” for the academic community.

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