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Normal Stars & Star Clusters
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Normal Stars & Star Clusters
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Normal Stars & Star Clusters
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Normal Stars & Star Clusters
Animations & Video: Normal Stars & Star Clusters
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Click for high-resolution animation
1. Goodness Gracious, Great Ball of Fire!
QuicktimeMPEG

Imagine you're in a spaceship, looking for a new world to settle down in. You see a planet in the distance and it's a beautiful blue color, just like Earth when it's seen from space. This planet is called HD 189733, and it is the first planet outside of our own Solar System that we've worked out the color of! But while it might look like Earth from a distance, if you flew closer to it, you'd realize just how different it is from our home.

HD 189733 is an enormous gas giant, over 100 times bigger than Earth. It orbits very close to its star. It takes Earth 365 days to orbit our Sun once, but it only takes this planet 2.2 days! In fact, it's so close to its star that temperatures in its atmosphere reach over 1000°C! No amount of sun lotion or ice cream would make this a nice place to visit.

As of today, 925 planets have been discovered orbiting around other stars in our Galaxy. But they're very small and dim, so it's not very often that we can actually see the planets. Most of the time we have to detect them using nifty tricks instead. One method is called the 'Transit Method'. We point our telescope at a star, and wait to see if it gets any dimmer. If the star does get dimmer, it means that a planet is passing in front of it and blocking some of the light. With HD 189733, astronomers have looked at the system using the Chandra X-ray Telescope to find the dip in the amount of X-rays when the planet passes in front of the star.

By doing this, they've managed to reveal some scary new details. The planet has an enormous atmosphere, which you can see in this drawing. But the boiling heat of its parent star is roasting away huge amounts of the planet's air - up to 600 million kilograms every second!


[Runtime: 02:04]
(NASA/CXC/April Jubett)

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2. Tour of HD 189733
QuicktimeMPEG 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.
[Runtime: 01:54]
(NASA/CXC/J. DePasquale)

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3. Tour of NGC 602
QuicktimeMPEG The Small Magellanic Cloud - also known as the SMC - is one of the closest galaxies to the Milky Way. Because the SMC is so close and bright, it offers a chance to study phenomena that are difficult to examine in more distant galaxies. Chandra has been used to make the first detection of X-ray emission from young, low-mass stars outside our Milky Way galaxy. By "low-mass" we mean with masses similar to our Sun. The Chandra observations of these low-mass stars were made of the region known as the "Wing" of the SMC. In this composite image of the Wing the Chandra data is shown in purple, optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope is shown in red, green and blue and infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope is shown in red. The Wing differs from most areas in the Milky Way by having relatively few metals, that is elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. The Chandra results imply that the young, metal-poor stars in NGC 602a make X-rays just like stars with much higher metal content in our galaxy make X-rays.
[Runtime: 01:22]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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4. Learn About Stars
QuicktimeMPEG Stars appear to be permanent fixtures of the night sky. However, stars are like people. They are born, live a lifetime, and ultimately die.
Chandra and other X-ray telescopes focus on the high-energy action of stellar drama....
...sudden outbursts on the turbulent surfaces of stars,
...gale-force outflows of gas from hot, luminous stars,
...and awesome shock waves generated by supernova explosions.
See stellar evolution through Chandra's eyes.
[Runtime: 1.31]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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5. Tour of DEM L50
QuicktimeMPEG DEM L50 is what astronomers call a superbubble. These objects are found in regions where massive stars have formed, raced through their evolution, and exploded as supernovas. Winds from the massive stars and shock waves from the supernovas carve out huge cavities in the gas and dust around them, creating superbubbles. This composite contains X-rays from Chandra and optical data from ground-based telescopes. The superbubble in DEM L50 is giving off about 20 times more X-rays than expected by standard models. Researchers think that supernova shock waves striking the walls of the cavities and hot material evaporating from the cavity walls may be responsible for this additional X-ray emission.
[Runtime: 00:51]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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6. Tour of Cygnus OB2
QuicktimeMPEG The Milky Way and other galaxies in the universe are home to many star clusters and associations that each contain hundreds to thousands of hot, massive, young stars. Astronomers would like to better understand how these star factories form and evolve over time. Cygnus OB2 is the closest massive star cluster to Earth, making it an excellent target for astronomers to study. A long observation from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory of Cygnus OB2 revealed about 1,700 X-ray sources. Scientists think that nearly 1,500 of these X-ray sources are young stars. The X-ray emission comes from the hot outer atmospheres of these stars ranging in age from one million to seven million years old. This makes the stars in Cygnus OB2 practically newborn babies when compared to a star like our Sun at about 5 billion years in age. By combining Chandra's data with those from other telescopes, a more complete story of star birth and early adolescence is made.
[Runtime: 01.11]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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7. Tour of NGC 1929
QuicktimeMPEG The star cluster known as NGC 1929 is embedded in a cloud of gas and dust, which astronomers call the N44 nebula. Many new stars, some of them very massive, are forming within this star cluster. These massive stars produce intense radiation, expel matter at high speeds, and race through their evolution to explode as supernovas. The winds and supernova shock waves carve out huge cavities called superbubbles in the surrounding gas. X-rays from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory show hot regions created by these winds and shocks. Meanwhile, infrared data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope outline where the dust and cooler gas are found. An optical light image from a European Space Observatory telescope in Chile shows where ultraviolet radiation from hot, young stars is causing gas in the nebula to glow.
[Runtime: 1.04]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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8. Tour of Tarantula Nebula
QuicktimeMPEG 30 Doradus is a place where stars are born literally. This region, which is also known as the Tarantula Nebula, is located about 160,000 light years from Earth. Within 30 Doradus, giant stars are producing intense radiation and powerful winds that are blowing off material from their surfaces. These stellar winds and blasts from supernova explosions have heated some of the gas to millions of degrees. The Chandra X-ray Observatory can detect this gas in the form of X-ray light. This hot gas carves out gigantic bubbles in the surrounding cooler gas and dust that can be seen by the Spitzer Space Telescope as infrared emission. When combined, the data from these two telescopes reveal an amazing view of this region that is found in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small neighbor galaxy to our Milky Way.
[Runtime: 00:59]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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9. Tour of NGC 281
QuicktimeMPEG High-mass stars are important because they are responsible for much of the energy pumped into a galaxy over its lifetime. Unfortunately, these stars aren't understood very well because they are usually found relatively far away in places where lots of gas and dust can impede out line of sight. The star cluster NGC 281 is an exception to this rule. It is located about 6,500 light years from Earth and almost 1,000 light years above the plane of the Galaxy. This means it's away from much of stuff that blocks our view. Here we see NGC 281 in X-rays from Chandra and infrared data from Spitzer. The high-mass stars in NGC 281 have powerful winds flowing from their surfaces and intense radiation that heats surrounding gas, "boiling it away" into interstellar space. This process results in the formation of large columns of gas and dust, as seen on the left side of the image. These structures likely contain newly forming stars. The eventual deaths of massive stars as supernovas will also seed the galaxy with material and energy.
[Runtime: 1.29]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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10. Tour of CoRoT-2A
QuicktimeMPEG In recent years, astronomers have found hundreds of planets orbiting stars other than our Sun. New Chandra observations of one of these planets reveal that it is in a fairly dire situation. The Chandra data provide evidence that the star in this system, known as CoRoT-2a, is blasting a planet that is in an extremely close orbit around it with very powerful X-rays. These X-rays are a hundred thousand times more intense than those that the Earth receives from the Sun, and are causing some serious damage. Astronomers estimate that this high-energy radiation is evaporating about 5 million tons of matter every second from the planet. Future observations with Chandra and other telescopes should reveal more details about what's going on in this system and perhaps others like it. In the meantime, let's be happy that the Earth isn't anything like this fried planet.
[Runtime: 1.00]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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