Scientists from NASA have found blue and green X-ray spots shining in a distant galaxy, but the source of these spots remains a mystery. According to observations by NASA’s NuSTAR and Chandra telescopes, the strange lights suddenly emerged, shone brightly, and then disappeared in a matter of just ten days – a shorter time span than usual. “Ten days is a really short amount of time for such a bright object to appear,” Caltech researcher Hannah Earnshaw said.
According to NASA, the bright rays belonged to the fourth ultraluminous X-ray source (ULX-4), originating in the Fireworks Galaxy found 22 million light years away from Earth. The results were compiled by overlaying visible-light images of the galaxy (NGC 6946) from the Digital Sky Survey with data from NASA’s NuSTAR observatory.
Based on studies in August, researchers predicted that the blue and green rays could appear either due to a black hole, or a neutron star. Black holes usually take far longer than just ten days to tear apart astral bodies to release X-rays, but it is possible that a black hole may have swallowed the ULX-4 suddenly.
Neutron stars, on the other hand, spin extremely fast, with their magnetic fields acting as barriers for debris and other astral objects from hitting them to produce X-ray light. Only when a material manages to cross this barrier would neutron stars emit bright X-rays like the ones pictured.
Earnshar remarked that “it would kind of be like trying to jump onto a carousel that’s spinning at thousands of miles an hour.” NASA remarked on this being one explanation for the short span of ULX-4, but unless the eerie lights reappear, we may never know their true source.