Cygnus OB2: Probing a nearby stellar cradle

Nov 08, 2012
Composite view of Cygnus OB2.

(Phys.org)—The Milky Way and other galaxies in the universe harbor many young star clusters and associations that each contain hundreds to thousands of hot, massive, young stars known as O and B stars. The star cluster Cygnus OB2 contains more than 60 O-type stars and about a thousand B-type stars. At a relatively nearby distance to Earth of about 5,000 light years, Cygnus OB2 is the closest massive cluster.

Deep observations with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory of Cygnus OB2 have been used to detect the X-ray emission from the hot outer atmospheres, or coronas, of young stars in the cluster and to probe how these great star factories form and evolve. About 1,700 X-ray sources were detected, including about 1,450 thought to be stars in the cluster. In this image, X-rays from Chandra (blue) have been combined with infrared data from NASA's (red) and optical data from the Telescope (orange).

Infrared view of Cygnus OB2. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Young stars ranging in age from one million to seven million years were detected. The infrared data indicates that a very low fraction of the stars have circumstellar disks of dust and gas. Even fewer disks were found close to the massive OB stars, betraying the corrosive power of their that leads to early destruction of their disks. Evidence is also seen that the older population of stars has lost its most massive members because of supernova explosions. Finally, a total mass of about 30,000 times the mass of the sun is derived for Cygnus OB2, similar to that of the most massive star forming regions in our Galaxy.

X-ray view of Cygnus OB2. Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/J.Drake et al

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra's science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

Optical view of Cygnus OB2. Credit: Univ. of Hertfordshire/INT/IPHAS


Explore further: Is the universe finite or infinite?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Chandra Lifts the Veil on Milky Way 'Hotspot'

Jan 23, 2008

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is helping to demystify Westerlund 2, a young star cluster with an estimated age of about one- or two-million years. Heavily obscured by dust and gas, Westerlund 2 has been ...

Space image: Carina Nebula: 14,000+ Stars

Oct 17, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Carina Nebula is a star-forming region in the Sagittarius-Carina arm of the Milky Way that is 7,500 light years from Earth and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory has detected more than 14,000 ...

'Proplyd-like' objects discovered in Cygnus OB2

Jan 16, 2012

The well known Orion Nebula is perhaps the most well known star forming regions in the sky. The four massive stars known as the trapezium illuminate the massive cloud of gas and dust busily forming into new ...

Hunting for the Milky Way's heaviest stars

Apr 14, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA observatories have located strong infrared signals near the plane of the Milky Way, suggesting the possible presence of massive stars.

Image: A Galactic Spectacle

Aug 05, 2010

A beautiful new image of two colliding galaxies has been released by NASA's Great Observatories. The Antennae galaxies, located about 62 million light-years from Earth, are shown in this composite image from ...

Recommended for you

Is the universe finite or infinite?

11 hours ago

Two possiblities exist: either the Universe is finite and has a size, or it's infinite and goes on forever. Both possibilities have mind-bending implications.

'Teapot' nova begins to wane

13 hours ago

A star, or nova, has appeared in the constellation of Sagittarius and, even though it is now waning, it is still bright enough to be visible in the sky over Perth through binoculars or a telescope.

Dark matter is darker than once thought

14 hours ago

This panel of images represents a study of 72 colliding galaxy clusters conducted by a team of astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope. The research sets new limits on ...

Galaxy clusters collide—dark matter still a mystery

Mar 26, 2015

When galaxy clusters collide, their dark matters pass through each other, with very little interaction. Deepening the mystery, a study by scientists at EPFL and the University of Edinburgh challenges the ...

Using 19th century technology to time travel to the stars

Mar 26, 2015

In the late 19th century, astronomers developed the technique of capturing telescopic images of stars and galaxies on glass photographic plates. This allowed them to study the night sky in detail. Over 500,000 ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.