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: Planck: Gravitational waves remain elusive

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Arsenic stubbornly taints many US wells, say new reports

10 hours ago

Naturally occurring arsenic in private wells threatens people in many U.S. states and parts of Canada, according to a package of a dozen scientific papers to be published next week. The studies, focused mainly ...

Planck: Gravitational waves remain elusive

11 hours ago

Despite earlier reports of a possible detection, a joint analysis of data from ESA's Planck satellite and the ground-based BICEP2 and Keck Array experiments has found no conclusive evidence of primordial ...

Evidence mounts for quantum criticality theory

12 hours ago

A new study by a team of physicists at Rice University, Zhejiang University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Florida State University and the Max Planck Institute adds to the growing body of evidence supporting ...

Recommended for you

Planck: Gravitational waves remain elusive

Jan 30, 2015

Despite earlier reports of a possible detection, a joint analysis of data from ESA's Planck satellite and the ground-based BICEP2 and Keck Array experiments has found no conclusive evidence of primordial ...

What's happening in the universe right now?

Jan 30, 2015

There are some topics that get a little frustrating in their pedantry, but can really draw attention to the grand scope and mechanics in our Universe. This is definitely one of them.

The tell-tale signs of a galactic merger

Jan 29, 2015

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured this striking view of spiral galaxy NGC 7714. This galaxy has drifted too close to another nearby galaxy and the dramatic interaction has twisted its spiral ...

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.