(Inside Science) -- This month, astronomers released a diversity of images that showcase the grandness of astronomical discoveries. By translating data into pictures, they illustrate the results of new large-scale tests of Einstein's theory of general relativity, herald years of telescope observations, and reveal the answers to distant mysteries.
Through an international observation campaign, scientists have located a source of high energy neutrinos for the first time. Neutrinos are ghostly particles that can travel billions of light years, unaffected by the objects they travel through in the universe. This artist's impression shows an active galactic nucleus -- the source of these mysterious particles. At the center of its plate-shaped accretion disk sits a supermassive black hole that expels a high-energy jet of matter into space. (DESY, Science Communication Lab)
In another stunning offering this month, the European Southern Observatory released this photo of the star cluster RCW 38 in rich detail. Astronomers took the photo while testing the High Acuity Wide-field K-band Imager, which has the unique capability to survey dust-covered star clusters, making RCW 38 -- located 5,500 light-years away -- a great candidate. This photo shows lush painterly strokes of dark stellar dust speckled with twinkling, young stars. (ESO/K. Muzic)
Supermassive black holes are at the center of another scientific test this month -- this time of Einstein's general relativity. By using 26 years of observations of the Milky Way taken by the Very Large Telescope, astronomers have for the first time seen how the gravitational pull from the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy affects the motion of a star as it passes nearby, as predicted by Einstein’s theory. Pictured above is an artist's impression of the event. (ESO/M. Kommesser)
The Green Bank Telescope also released the results of tests of Einstein’s theory of general relativity this month. By tracking two white dwarves and one ultra-dense neutron star, scientists were able to show that even on the grand scale of a planetary system, the theory held water. In this triple star system illustrated above, neutron stars were seen to fall in the same way as their less-dense white dwarf neighbors, showing that the Strong Equivalence Principle still holds true even 4,200 light-years from Earth. (NRAO/AUI/NSF; S. Dagnello)
For almost a century, astronomers have puzzled over the mystery of a star in the Taurus-Auriga constellation 450 light-years away. The star, named RW Aur A, seems to dim every few decades, and then brighten again. Using the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, scientists have proposed an answer -- the planetary debris from the collision of two infant planetary bodies sometimes obscures the light from the star. This illustration depicts the awe-inspiring drama of the planets' remains falling into their own star. (NASA/CXC/M.Weiss)