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Normal Stars & Star Clusters
X-ray Astronomy Field Guide
Normal Stars & Star Clusters
Questions and Answers
Normal Stars & Star Clusters
Chandra Images
Normal Stars & Star Clusters
Animations & Video: Normal Stars & Star Clusters
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Click for high-resolution animation
1. Tour of Massive Stars in the Milky Way
QuicktimeMPEG Like looking for Easter eggs in a lawn of long grass, the hunt for the Milky Way's most massive stars takes persistence and sharp eyes and powerful telescopes that can see different types of light. This image shows infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope near the plane of the Milky Way galaxy. These boxes contain a darkened view of the Spitzer data that highlights a bright Chandra X-ray source. Analysis of the X-ray and infrared data, as well as optical and radio observations, reveals that these bright sources are extremely massive stars. In fact, these stars are thought to be at least 25 times as massive as our Sun. It is difficult to find these stars with optical telescopes because dust and gas in the plane of the Milky Way blocks our view. We can see them in X-rays because high-speed winds from their surfaces collide with material, creating shock waves that generate temperatures up to 100 million degrees.
[Runtime: 1.07]
(X-ray: NASA/U. of Sydney/G.Anderson et al; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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2. Images of J144547-5931 and J144701-5919
QuicktimeMPEG Data from Chandra and Spitzer of a region near the Galactic plane have been combined to track down some of the Milky Way's heaviest stars, which can be very elusive. The outlined boxes contain darkened Spitzer data and a bright Chandra X-ray source (blue) that coincides with a strong infrared signal. These are giant stars thought to be at least 25 times more massive than the Sun. They are very bright in X-rays because high-speed winds from their surfaces collide with material, creating shock waves that generate temperatures up to 100 million degrees.
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(X-ray: NASA/U. of Sydney/G.Anderson et al; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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3. Tour of Rosette Nebula
QuicktimeMPEG This spectacular image shows the Rosette star formation region, which is located about 5,000 light years from Earth. X-rays from the Chandra X-ray Observatory reveal hundreds of young stars clustered in the center of the image and additional fainter clusters on either side. Optical data from the Digitized Sky Survey and the Kitt Peak National Observatory show large areas of gas and dust, including giant pillars that remain behind after intense radiation from massive stars has eroded the more diffuse gas. The combination of the X-ray and optical data lead astronomers to believe that stars are still forming in the central cluster of the Rosette, known as NGC 2237. Astronomers are also using these data to piece together the history of this gorgeous region. The Rosette Nebula has long been a favorite target of amateur astronomers in the constellation the Unicorn. The wispy colorful structures in the optical data can sometimes be seen by small telescopes from the ground here on Earth.
[Runtime: 01.13]
(X-ray (NASA/CXC/SAO/J. Wang et al), Optical (DSS & NOAO/AURA/NSF/KPNO 0.9-m/T. Rector et al))

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4. Tour of CH Cyg
QuicktimeMPEG Deep within this optical image lies an intriguing system known as CH Cyg. CH Cyg is a binary star system containing a white dwarf that feeds from the wind of a red giant star. The material from the wind forms a hot accretion disk around the white dwarf before crashing onto the star. CH Cyg is one of only a few hundred so-called symbiotic systems known, and one of the closest to Earth at a distance of only about 800 light years. By combining X-ray data from Chandra, optical data from Hubble, and radio data from the Very Large Array, scientists can study CH Cyg like never before. This image shows material in a jet, moving with a speed of over three million miles per hour, powered by material spinning into the accretion disk around the white dwarf. Systems like CH Cyg are fascinating objects because the components are codependent and influence each other's structure, daily life, and evolution.
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(X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/M.Karovska et al; Optical: NASA/STScI; Radio: NRAO/VLA]; Wide field [Optical (DSS))

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5. Images of Eta Carinae
QuicktimeMPEG The sequence begins with the Hubble's optical view of Eta Carinae, showing two lobes of gas and dust most likely ejected from the star in an eruption observed the 1840s. The view then changes to include Chandra's X-ray data in yellow. The X-ray emission shows where material previously ejected by Eta Carinae rams into nearby gas and dust, heating gas to temperatures in excess of a million degrees.
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(X-ray: NASA/CXC/GSFC/M.Corcoran et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI)

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6. Different Views of the Eagle Nebula (M16)
QuicktimeMPEG The Eagle Nebula (aka, the "Pillars of Creation") looks very different when viewed through three of NASA's orbiting observatories. The infrared image from the Spitzer Space Telescope and the famous Hubble Space Telescope image show the gas and dust of this star-forming region. The X-ray image from Chandra allows astronomers to peer through the obscuring material, and shows that the Eagle Nebula may be past its prime in terms of making stars. One young star is found inside the pillars, which scientists estimate to be 4 or 5 times more massive than the Sun.
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(X-ray: NASA/CXC/U.Colorado/Linsky et al.; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI/ASU/J.Hester & P.Scowen; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSC/N.Flagey & A.Noriega-Crespo)

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7. Multi-wavelength Views of NGC 3576
QuicktimeMPEG Because NGC 3576 is very dense, many of the young, massive stars visible in the Chandra image have previously been hidden from view. A cluster of stars is visible in the infrared data, but not enough young, massive stars have been identified to explain the brightness of the nebula. Astronomers have found a large flow of ionized gas in radio observations and huge bubbles in optical images that extend out from the edge of the HII region. Taken with the X-ray data, this information hints that powerful winds are emerging from this hidden cluster.
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(X-ray: NASA/CXC/Penn State/L.Townsley et al.; Optical: DSS; Infrared: MSX)

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8. Tour of Cepheus B
QuicktimeMPEG A new study from two of NASA's "Great Observatories" provides fresh insight into how some stars are born, along with a beautiful new image of a stellar nursery in our own Milky Way Galaxy. While astronomers have long understood that stars and planets form from the collapse of a cloud of gas, the main causes of this process have remained mysterious. Now, research on an object known as Cepheus B, a cloud of hydrogen about 2400 light years from Earth, helps answer that question. X-rays seen by Chandra show where the young stars in the cloud are, while infrared emission observed by Spitzer reveals whether these stars contain planet-forming disks around them. Taken together, these data reveal that radiation from massive stars is triggering a new generation of stars to be born. This happens more often than previously thought.
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(X-ray (NASA/CXC/PSU/K. Getman et al.); IR (NASA/JPL-Caltech/CfA/J. Wang et al.))

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9. Chandra and Spitzer Images of Cepheus B
QuicktimeMPEG Astronomers observed an object known as Cepheus B, which is a cloud of molecular hydrogen about 2,400 light years from Earth. X-ray data from Chandra allowed the researchers to pick out the young stars within around Cepheus B. Infrared emission detected by Spitzer revealed whether the young stars had disks around them in which stars may form. By combining the two sets of data, astronomers found that stars in this object are being triggered to form by some external force, such as radiation from a massive star or a shock from a nearby supernova.
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(X-ray (NASA/CXC/PSU/K. Getman et al.); IR (NASA/JPL-Caltech/CfA/J. Wang et al.))

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10. Tour of 30 Doradus
QuicktimeMPEG Chandra's X-ray image of the Tarantula Nebula gives scientists a close-up view of the drama of star formation and star evolution. The Tarantula, also known as 30 Doradus, is one of the most active star-forming regions in a galaxy close to the Milky Way. Massive stars in 30 Doradus are producing intense radiation and searing winds of multimillion-degree gas. These winds carve out gigantic super-bubbles in the surrounding gas as seen in the Chandra data. Other massive stars have raced through their evolution and exploded catastrophically as supernovas. These events leave behind pulsars and expanding remnants that trigger the collapse of giant clouds of dust and gas to form new generations of stars.
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(NASA/CXC/Penn State/L.Townsley, et al.)

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