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Catalog of cosmic X-Ray sightings will aid astronomers

July 23, 2013 at 6:34 PM

LEICESTER, England, July 23 (UPI) -- A team led by British scientists says it has created a catalog containing the most cosmic X-ray sources ever sighted to help astronomers explore the universe.

Researchers at the University of Leicester used the school's "ALICE" supercomputer to help them produce a new X-ray catalog, dubbed "3XMM," with more than half a million X-ray source detections, a university release said Tuesday.

The catalog represents a 50 percent increase over previous listings and is the largest listing of X-ray sources ever produced, researchers said.

The catalog was created using data from the European Space Agency's X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission. Since Earth's atmosphere blocks out all X-rays, only a telescope in space can detect and study celestial X-ray sources.

"The catalog provides enormous scope for new discoveries as well as in-depth studies of large samples," Leicester researcher Mike Watson said. "XMM-Newton is pre-eminent amongst current X-ray missions in its ability to perform `survey' science, with a chance to find previously undetected objects and then explore their properties."

The XMM-Newton mission is helping solve a number of cosmic mysteries, the scientists said, ranging from the enigmatic black holes to the origins of the universe itself.

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