Milky Way Center Bathed in Unexplainably Hot X-Rays
The Chandra X-Ray Observatory found more heat at the center of the Milky Way than astronomers can explain. Astronomers observed a tiny angle around the Milky Way’s center for 170 hours. After subtracting out known sources, a diffuse gas cloud remains that is radiating X-rays at 100 million degrees. Star counts capable of heating the gas are short by an order of magnitude; “There is no known class of objects that could account for such a large number of high-energy X-ray sources at the Galactic center,” said a co-author of the study released this week.
Furthermore, what sustains the cloud is a mystery. Known gravitational sources are insufficient to hold onto this gas, which should have escaped by now. “The escape time would be about 10,000 years, a small fraction of the 10-billion-year lifetime of the Galaxy,” states the press release. “ This implies that the gas would have to be continually regenerated and heated.” But three suggestions for maintaining this gas at such a high temperature all have problems.
Space.Com added, “A paper will describe the study in the Sept. 20, 2004 issue of the Astrophysical Journal. Maybe by then somebody will figure out what it means.”
Since this is a work in progress, any judgments on tentative interpretations would be premature. It’s good to discern, however, attempts to force uncooperative data into preconceived notions about time scales and evolutionary theories. That fault is endemic in the biological sciences.