DEM L50: Beautiful But Deadly

Narrator (April Hobart, CXC): It seems that there is a twist in nature: the more beautiful something is, the more deadly it also might be. For example, some of the most colorful animals, insects and flowers can also be among the most poisonous. Is that also true in space? This new space image shows a pink bubble of gas glowing against a shining field of stars. Well, this pretty cloud is another of nature's dangerous beauties - it's shooting out huge amounts of intense, deadly radiation! Fortunately, we humans are safe from it however.

The glowing cloud of gas and dust in this picture is called a 'Super-bubble'. They are found in areas where lots of massive stars have formed fairly recently. These baby stars blow out intense winds and massive stars 'live fast and die young'. They speed through their lives to explode as powerful supernovas. It's these destructive events that have carved-out the center of the cloud, leaving behind just a ring of gas and dust.

The chaos taking place inside these giant super-bubbles stretches far beyond the hollowed cloud in the form of potentially dangerous X-ray radiation. Scientists have discovered that this particular cloud gives off 20 times more of these intense rays than they expected! So, here's another example of something that's beautiful but might be deadly! Our advice is: always enjoy beautiful things from a safe distance!

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Narrator (April Hobart, CXC): HD 189733b: An exoplanet in orbit around a star about 63 light years from Earth. It has been nearly two decades since the first exoplanets – that is, planets around stars other than our Sun – were discovered. Now for the first time, X-ray observations have detected an exoplanet passing in front of its parent star. The observations, made by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton Observatory, took advantage of the alignment of a planet and its parent star in HD 189733. This alignment enabled the observatories to observe a dip in X-ray intensity as the planet moved in front of, or transited, the star. This technique is the one used so successfully at optical wavelengths by NASA's Kepler telescope. In earlier studies using optical light, astronomers discovered that the main star in the HD 189733 system had what is known as a "hot Jupiter" around it. This means the planet is about the size of Jupiter, but in very close orbit around its star. The planet – that has been named HD 189733b -- is over 30 times closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun, and goes around the star once every 2.2 days. The new X-ray data suggest that this planet has a larger atmosphere than previously thought. This, in turn, may imply that radiation from the parent star is evaporating the atmosphere of HD 189733b more quickly than expected. The results on HD 189733 demonstrate how we need information from many different telescopes that detect different types of light to get a fuller picture of these mysterious worlds that we are now able to explore.

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