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Normal Stars & Star Clusters
X-ray Astronomy Field Guide
Normal Stars & Star Clusters
Questions and Answers
Normal Stars & Star Clusters
Chandra Images
Normal Stars & Star Clusters
Animations & Video: Normal Stars & Star Clusters
Page 12345
Click for high-resolution animation
1. 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.
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(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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2. 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.
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(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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3. 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.
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(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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4. 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.
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(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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5. 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.
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(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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6. 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.
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(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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7. X-ray and Optical Images of CoRoT-2A
QuicktimeMPEG This sequence shows images of a nearby star named CoRoT-2a. The composite image contains X-rays from Chandra (purple) of CoRoT-2a along with optical and infrared data of the field of view in which the star is found. Not seen in these images -- but still detectable in the data -- is a planet known as CoRoT-2b in an extremely close orbit around the star. The Chandra data indicate that the planet is being blasted by X-rays with such intensity that some 5 million tons of material are being eroded from CoRoT-2a every second.
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(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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8. Tour of Carina Nebula
QuicktimeMPEG Located in the Sagittarius-Carina arm of the Milky Way a mere 7,500 light years from Earth, the Carina Nebula is one of the best places to study how massive stars live and die. Chandra's extraordinarily sharp X-ray vision has detected over 14,000 stars in this region, revealed a diffuse X-ray glow, and provided strong evidence that supernovas have already occurred in this massive complex of young stars. This includes a scarcity of giant stars in the region known as Trumpler 15. This is evidence that many stars here have already exploded and disappeared. The most famous star in the Carina Nebula is Eta Carinae, which many astronomers believe will itself soon explode as a supernova.
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(NASA/CXC/PSU/L.Townsley et al & A.Hobart)

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9. Tour of Massive Stars in the Milky Way
QuicktimeMPEG Like looking for Easter eggs in a lawn of long grass, the hunt for the Milky Way's most massive stars takes persistence and sharp eyes and powerful telescopes that can see different types of light. This image shows infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope near the plane of the Milky Way galaxy. These boxes contain a darkened view of the Spitzer data that highlights a bright Chandra X-ray source. Analysis of the X-ray and infrared data, as well as optical and radio observations, reveals that these bright sources are extremely massive stars. In fact, these stars are thought to be at least 25 times as massive as our Sun. It is difficult to find these stars with optical telescopes because dust and gas in the plane of the Milky Way blocks our view. We can see them in X-rays because high-speed winds from their surfaces collide with material, creating shock waves that generate temperatures up to 100 million degrees.
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(X-ray: NASA/U. of Sydney/G.Anderson et al; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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10. Images of J144547-5931 and J144701-5919
QuicktimeMPEG Data from Chandra and Spitzer of a region near the Galactic plane have been combined to track down some of the Milky Way's heaviest stars, which can be very elusive. The outlined boxes contain darkened Spitzer data and a bright Chandra X-ray source (blue) that coincides with a strong infrared signal. These are giant stars thought to be at least 25 times more massive than the Sun. They are very bright in X-rays because high-speed winds from their surfaces collide with material, creating shock waves that generate temperatures up to 100 million degrees.
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(X-ray: NASA/U. of Sydney/G.Anderson et al; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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