Australian astronomers get a clearer picture of the high energy universe via eROSITA’s first all-sky survey

This image shows half of the X-ray sky, projected onto a circle (so-called Zenit Equal Area projection) with the centre of the Milky Way on the left and the galactic plane running horizontally. Photons have been colour-coded according to their energy (red for energies 0.3-0.6 keV, green for 0.6-1 keV, blue for 1-2.3 keV). Credit: MPE, J. Sanders for the eROSITA consortium.

Data from the first all-sky survey by the X-ray imaging telescope eROSITA has been released, yielding the largest X-ray catalogue ever published. A series of scientific papers were also released along with the data, including two led by Australian researchers Dr Adelle Goodwin and PhD student Silvia Mantovanini from International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), Curtin University.

Lead investigators Dr Goodwin and Mantovanini combined the X-ray data from eROSITA with optical and radio data from Australian surveys to get deeper insights into high energy cosmic phenomena.

For her part, Dr Goodwin and her collaborators watched a supermassive black hole destroy a star. While incredible enough, it is also astonishing that the event took place at the centre of a galaxy 1.3 billion light years away. The destruction was first observed as a bright X-ray source by eROSITA. Dr Goodwin and her collaborators then used a radio telescope – the Australia Telescope Compact Array – to track the stars’ debris, ejected by the black hole over two years as it moved through the galaxy. These observations informed the researchers how the star was destroyed and how the black hole spat out the material as the star was consumed. It also gave the researchers excellent information about the central region of this distant galaxy. See Dr Goodwin’s paper here.

Dr Goodwin watched a supermassive black hole destroy a star, located at the center of a galaxy 1.3 billion light years away. The team of researchers managed to track the stars' debris, ejected by the black hole over 2 years as it moved through the galaxy. Image credit: DESY, Science Communication Lab.

For Mantovanini and her collaborators, eROSITA’s observations allowed the identification of a supernova remnant in our own Milky Way galaxy. A supernova remnant refers to all the material and energy left behind after the explosion of a star at the end of its life. Using several radio surveys, the team were able to confirm that the X-ray diffuse structure observed by eROSITA was indeed a supernova remnant. See Mantovanini’s paper here.

The supernova remnant as seen by Mantovanini and her team using eROSITA in the x-ray (green and red) and radio (blue) data overlaid. Credit: Mantovanini et al., 2024.

AAL is proud to support Australian-based astronomers and institutions via the agreement that made this collaboration possible, signed between AAL and the German eROSITA Consortium (eROSITA-DE). Find out more about the collaboration here.

The fourth Australian/eROSITA-DE Joint Collaboration Workshop will be held between 25-27 March 2024, for more information please see AAL’s event page.

For more information on the latest data release, please see this Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) press release.

eROSITA stands for extended Roentgen Survey with an Imaging Telescope Array. It is an X-ray instrument built for the Russian-German mission launched on the Russian Spekt-RG spacecraft on 13 July 2019. 

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