Animated X-ray view of Messier 83
This animation shows an X-ray view of the spiral galaxy Messier 83, or M83, based on data from ESA's XMM-Newton space observatory.
The data were gathered on six occasions – January 2003, January and August 2014, February and August 2015, and January 2016 – at energies of 0.2–2 keV (shown in red), 2–4.5 keV (shown in green), and 4.5–12 keV (shown in blue).
Located some 15 million light-years away, M83 is a barred spiral galaxy, not dissimilar in shape from our own Milky Way, and currently undergoing a spur of star formation, with a handful of new stars being born every year.
Most of the dots in this view represent the end points of the life cycle of stars, including remnants of supernova explosions and binary systems featuring compact stellar remnants like neutron stars or black holes that are feeding on matter from a companion star. In particular, the large speck to the lower left of the galaxy's central region is what astronomers call an ultra-luminous X-ray source, or ULX, a binary system where the compact remnant is accreting mass from its companion at a much higher rate than an ordinary X-ray binary.
The sources located in the reddish area at the centre of the view correspond to objects located in the inner portions of M83. The majority of sources scattered across the image are located in the outskirts of the galaxy, but a few of those are foreground stars in our own galaxy, and others correspond to more distant galaxies in the background.
A single image based on these data is available here.