In this captivating composite image of the Manatee Nebula, the dynamic interplay of cosmic forces unfolds. The jet streaming from SS 433, a black hole engulfing surrounding matter, is vividly showcased within the supernova remnant that birthed it. The blue-green hues signify radio emissions from the remnant, while the striking bright blue-purple and pink-white hues represent X-ray data captured by IXPE, XMM-Newton, and Chandra. Against a backdrop of red, infrared data adds depth to the visual narrative. The black hole, at the heart of this celestial spectacle, releases twin jets of matter, hurtling in opposite directions at speeds nearing the cosmic constant of light.
As these powerful jets surge forth, they wield a transformative influence on the remnant’s structure, earning it the moniker “Manatee” among astronomers. Illuminating roughly 100 light-years from the black hole, the jets intensify in brightness, propelled by particles reaching extraordinary energies through internal shocks. The data from IXPE unveils a crucial insight—the alignment of the magnetic field, a pivotal factor in particle acceleration, runs parallel to the jet. This revelation contributes to unraveling the intricate mechanisms by which astrophysical jets propel particles to the realm of high energies, enhancing our understanding of these cosmic phenomena.
Nestled at the heart of the supernova remnant W50 in the constellation Aquila, the microquasar SS 433 commands attention from a distant vantage point, stationed approximately 18,000 light-years away from Earth. This celestial entity, with its distinctive moniker, the “Manatee Nebula,” owes its name to the transformative impact of its formidable jets on the surrounding remnant. Impressively, these jets, emanating from SS 433, propel at an astounding velocity—roughly 26% of the speed of light, equivalent to an astonishing 48,000 miles per second—adding a dynamic layer to the cosmic tapestry of this intriguing astronomical phenomenon.
The recent findings from IXPE’s observations at SS 433 are detailed in a newly published paper within the latest edition of The Astrophysical Journal. IXPE, a collaborative effort between NASA and the Italian Space Agency, involves partners and science collaborators spanning 12 countries, with leadership provided by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The spacecraft operations are overseen by Ball Aerospace, headquartered in Broomfield, Colorado, in conjunction with the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder.
Meanwhile, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Chandra program, with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Chandra X-ray Center coordinating science operations from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and overseeing flight operations from Burlington, Massachusetts.
Unveiling SS 433 and Its Cosmic Ballet.
Capturing the enigmatic beauty of SS 433, this composite image unveils a cosmic tableau where a black hole is intricately entwined within a supernova remnant. Resembling the distinctive form of a marine mammal, the remnant has earned the endearing moniker “Manatee Nebula.” The manatee-like structure is gracefully depicted, with its head positioned towards the right side of the image and its paddle-shaped tail extending to the left as a semi-transparent cloud of bluish-green hues. At the heart of this celestial portrait, a luminous white dot signifies the presence of the black hole SS 433, adding a focal point to the ethereal dance of cosmic forces within the intricate fabric of space.
Towards our left, slightly above the imaginary position of the animal’s tail, a region conspicuously lacking in material emerges. In this space, X-ray-detected jets of matter manifest as vibrant purple-blue streaks, contrasting with the pink hue of the black hole also detected in X-ray light. These jets, racing in the opposite direction from the black hole at extraordinary velocities, exert their influence, inducing distortions in the delicate contours of the supernova remnant. The backdrop of the image unfolds with a mesmerizing array of white flecks and wispy red streaks—celestial bodies and materials aglow in the enchanting palette of infrared light, enriching the visual narrative of this cosmic interplay.