Image: Chandra Observatory sees a heart in the darkness

Feb 17, 2014
Credit: NASA/CXC/U.Liege/Y.Nazé et al.

This Chandra X-Ray Observatory image of the young star cluster NGC 346 highlights a heart-shaped cloud of 8 million-degree Celsius gas in the central region. Evidence from radio, optical and ultraviolet telescopes suggests that the hot cloud, which is about 100 light years across, is the remnant of a supernova explosion that occurred thousands of years ago.

The progenitor could have been a companion of the massive young star that is responsible for the bright X-ray source at the top center of the image. This young star, HD 5980, one of the most massive known, has been observed to undergo dramatic eruptions during the last decade.

An alternative model for the origin of the hot cloud is that eruptions of HD 5980 long ago produced the cloud of hot gas, in a manner similar to the observed around the massive star Eta Carinae.

Future observations will be needed to decide between the alternatives. Until then, the nature of the heart in the darkness will remain mysterious.

Explore further: Short, sharp shocks let slip the stories of supernovae

Related Stories

Dwarf galaxy caught ramming into a large spiral

Aug 14, 2013

Observations with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have revealed a massive cloud of multimillion-degree gas in a galaxy about 60 million light years from Earth. The hot gas cloud is likely caused by a collision ...

Young stars paint spectacular stellar landscape

Nov 13, 2013

Astronomers at ESO have captured the best image so far of the clouds around the star cluster NGC 3572. This image shows how these clouds of gas and dust have been sculpted into bubbles, arcs and the odd features ...

Preserving the legacy of the X-ray universe

Oct 29, 2013

Every year, October is designated as American Archive Month. While many people may think "archive" means only dusty books and letters, there are, in fact, many other types of important archives. This includes ...

Recommended for you

Hubble observes one-of-a-kind star nicknamed 'Nasty'

May 21, 2015

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have uncovered surprising new clues about a hefty, rapidly aging star whose behavior has never been seen before in our Milky Way galaxy. In fact, the star is ...

Galaxy's snacking habits revealed

May 20, 2015

A team of Australian and Spanish astronomers have caught a greedy galaxy gobbling on its neighbours and leaving crumbs of evidence about its dietary past.

Supernova ignition surprises scientists

May 20, 2015

Scientists have captured the early death throes of supernovae for the first time and found that the universe's benchmark explosions are much more varied than expected.

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.