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: 'Eye of Sauron': Using supermassive black holes to measure cosmic distances

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Form Devices team designs Point as a house sitter

1 hour ago

A Scandinavian team "with an international outlook" and good eye for electronics, software and design aims to reach success with what they characterize as "a softer take" on home security. Their device is ...

Man pleads guilty in New York cybercrime case

4 hours ago

A California man has pleaded guilty in New York City for his role marketing malware that federal authorities say infected more than a half-million computers worldwide.

NASA issues 'remastered' view of Jupiter's moon Europa

13 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Scientists have produced a new version of what is perhaps NASA's best view of Jupiter's ice-covered moon, Europa. The mosaic of color images was obtained in the late 1990s by NASA's Galileo ...

Dish restores Turner channels to lineup

13 hours ago

Turner Broadcasting channels such as Cartoon Network and CNN are back on the Dish network after being dropped from the satellite TV provider's lineup during contract talks.

Recommended for you

A colorful gathering of middle-aged stars

Nov 26, 2014

NGC 3532 is a bright open cluster located some 1300 light-years away in the constellation of Carina(The Keel of the ship Argo). It is informally known as the Wishing Well Cluster, as it resembles scattered ...

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.