Chandra Lifts the Veil on Milky Way 'Hotspot'

Jan 23, 2008
Westerlund 2: A Stellar Site
Image credit: NASA/CXC/Univ. de Liege/Y. Nael et al

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 something of a Milky Way mystery. But now infrared and X-ray observations are peering through the obstacles. This cluster contains some of the hottest, brightest and most massive stars yet discovered.

This Chandra X-ray Observatory image shows Westerlund 2, a young star cluster with an estimated age of about one or two million years. Until recently little was known about this cluster because it is heavily obscured by dust and gas.

However, using infrared and X-ray observations to overcome this obscuration, Westerlund 2 has become regarded as one of the most interesting star clusters in the Milky Way galaxy. It contains some of the hottest, brightest and most massive stars known.

This Chandra image of Westerlund 2 shows low energy X-rays in red, intermediate energy X-rays in green and high energy X-rays in blue. The image shows a very high density of massive stars that are bright in X-rays, plus diffuse X-ray emission.

An incredibly massive double star system called WR20a is visible as the bright yellow point just below and to the right of the cluster's center. This system contains stars with masses of 82 and 83 times that of the Sun. The dense streams of matter steadily ejected by these two massive stars, called stellar winds, collide with each other and produce copious amounts of X-ray emission.

This collision is seen at different angles as the stars orbit around each other every 3.7 days. Several other bright X-ray sources may also show evidence for collisions between winds in massive binary systems.

Source: NASA

Explore further: Planet formation relied on sweeping up of small glassy beads, new model suggests

Related Stories

US govt sued over sea turtles snared in shrimp nets

6 hours ago

Tens of thousands of endangered sea turtles die every year in the United States when they are inadvertently snared in shrimp nets, an environmental group alleges, filing a lawsuit Wednesday against the government.

EU alleges Google's abuses hurt consumers, innovation

6 hours ago

The European Union's escalating legal attack on Google is likely to ignite a debate about whether the Internet search leader makes life more convenient for consumers or abuses its power to squeeze out rivals ...

Space open for business, says Electron launch system CEO

7 hours ago

Space, like business, is all about time and money, said Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab, a US company with a New Zealand subsidiary. The problem, he added, is that, in cost and time, space has remained an incredibly ...

EU action on Google marks divergence with Washington

7 hours ago

The EU antitrust complaint filed Wednesday against Google represents a sharp divergence with Washington, which dropped a similar investigation two years ago, citing a lack of evidence against the Internet ...

Recommended for you

White dwarf may have shredded passing planet

Apr 17, 2015

The destruction of a planet may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but a team of astronomers has found evidence that this may have happened in an ancient cluster of stars at the edge of the Milky Way ...

Giant galaxies die from the inside out

Apr 16, 2015

A major astrophysical mystery has centred on how massive, quiescent elliptical galaxies, common in the modern Universe, quenched their once furious rates of star formation. Such colossal galaxies, often also ...

Protosuns teeming with prebiotic molecules

Apr 16, 2015

Complex organic molecules such as formamide, from which sugars, amino acids and even nucleic acids essential for life can be made, already appear in the regions where stars similar to our Sun are born. Astrophysicists ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

RAL
not rated yet Jan 24, 2008
Any chance that Physorg could include a link to a larger picture on some of these articles? Just a suggestion.

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.