image credit: NASA

Astronomers have successfully used the Chandra X-ray Observatory of NASA to discover the biggest and the brightest rings ever observed. X-ray light echoes indicated the presence of this amazing set of rings; and according to scientists involved in the project, the rings are produced by intense flare generated from a distant neutron star.

This discovery has given NASA astronomers a rare opportunity of determining the distance between the Earth and the neutron star.

The rings located by the scientists form circles around Circinus X-1, a double star system in our home Galaxy Milky Way. This star system contains a neutron star, which exists in orbit along with a huge star.


The neutron star, as described by NASA, is the remnant of another huge star that was crushed during a supernova explosion and is covered by thick clouds containing interstellar dust and gas. In addition to the two stars, Circinus X-1 is also home to a stream of amazingly powerful high-energy particles.

According to University of Wisconsin’s Sebastian Heinz, the leader of the study, in astronomy, getting the accurate distance between two objects is extremely difficult and right now astronomers are only aware of a few methods of gauging distance.

Heinz added that during this particular study, he and his team took cue from bats’ ability of triangulating their location using sonar for figuring out the exact location of Circinus X-1 using X-rays emitted by the double star system.

The X-ray light echoes show that the double star system is situated around 30,700 light years away from the Earth. Chandra played a vital role in the process of detecting the rings and also helped astronomers to gather knowledge about their features. The X-ray observatory could make all these possible as a result of being highly sensitive to faint signals and boasting the ability to spot fine details.

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For those who don’t know: researchers came to know that the rings are basically echoes generated from X-rays produced by the double star system called Circinus X-1 in the final quarter of 2013.

The study’s coauthor Michael Burton, an expert representing the Sydney, Australia-based University of New South Wales, said that he and his colleagues feel that the system should be called “Lord of the Rings”; however, he reminded that it has no connection with Sauron, the main antagonist of the novel.