High-mass stars are important because they are responsible for much of the energy pumped into our galaxy over its lifetime. Unfortunately, these stars are poorly understood because they are often found relatively far away and can be obscured by gas and dust. The star cluster NGC 281 is an exception to this rule. It is located about 9,200 light years from Earth and, remarkably, almost 1,000 light years above the plane of the Galaxy, giving astronomers a nearly unfettered view of the star formation within it.
Normal Stars & Star Clusters
This large Chandra image shows the Carina Nebula, a star-forming region in the Sagittarius-Carina arm of the Milky Way a mere 7,500 light years from Earth. Chandra's sharp X-ray vision has detected over 14,000 stars in this region, revealed a diffuse X-ray glow, and provided strong evidence that massive stars have already self-destructed in this nearby supernova factory.
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. In their stellar search through our Galactic backyard, astronomers have used powerful telescopes sensitive to X-ray and infrared radiation to find evidence for a substantial population of X-ray emitting massive stars.
Lately, we’ve been noticing some great new videos that are covering some basic – yet hard-to-understand – concepts in astronomy. Here’s one we recently saw, featured on “Astronomy Picture of the Day,” that we thought was worth noting: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap110222.html
The composite image on the left shows X-ray and optical data for BP Piscium (BP Psc), a more evolved version of our Sun about 1,000 light years from Earth. Chandra X-ray Observatory data are colored in purple, and optical data from the 3-meter Shane telescope at Lick Observatory are shown in orange, green and blue. BP Psc is surrounded by a dusty and gaseous disk and has a pair of jets several light years long blasting out of the system. A close-up view is shown by the artist's impression on the right. For clarity a narrow jet is shown, but the actual jet is probably much wider, extending across the inner regions of the disk. Because of the dusty disk, the star's surface is obscured in optical and near-infrared light. Therefore, the Chandra observation is the first detection of this star in any wavelength.
This composite image shows the Rosette star formation region, located about 5,000 light years from Earth. Data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory are colored red and outlined by a white line. The X-rays reveal hundreds of young stars in the central cluster and fainter clusters on either side. Optical data from the Digitized Sky Survey and the Kitt Peak National Observatory (purple, orange, green and blue) 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.
This image shows the symbiotic system known as CH Cyg, located only about 800 light years from Earth. The large image shows an optical view of CH Cyg, using the Digitized Sky Survey, and the inset shows a composite image containing Chandra X-ray data in red, optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in green, and radio data from the Very Large Array (VLA) in blue.
Back in 2002, we released a colorful image of the star-forming region known as 30 Doradus (also called the Tarantula Nebula.) At the time, we thought it was a beautiful image â€“ and it was â€“ of this pocket of intense stellar birth and death in the neighboring Large Magellanic Cloud.
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