Chandra surveys nearby giant molecular cloud

By Brooks Hays  |  July 13, 2017 at 10:47 AM
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July 13 (UPI) -- The Chandra X-ray observatory has identified 600 young stars inside a region of W51, one of the closest giant molecular clouds to Earth.

Astronomers used the Chandra's observations to create a new composite image of the giant molecular cloud.

Single, point-like X-rays, colored blue, mark the presence of young stars, while bluish purple diffuse X-ray emissions reveal hot gas. Infrared light picked up by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, colored orange and yellow-green, show the presence of cool molecular gas and stars engulfed by circumstellar disks of cooler material.

The image encompasses a portion of space measuring roughly 100 light-years across.

The young stars found in W51 are bunched in clusters. A central cluster boasts a population of roughly 100 young stars. X-ray emissions are absent from large portions the giant molecular cloud, where hot gas has been pushed out by large regions of cold gas and dust.

Some star clusters are brighter than others. The latest observations identified an especially large X-ray source, surrounded by only a handful of fainter X-ray sources, suggesting an especially large, bright star formed in relative isolation.

The new survey also revealed the presence of a massive X-ray source, so large it couldn't be explained by the presence of a single star. Instead, scientists believe interactions between a pair of young, massive stars account for the intensity of the X-ray emissions.

Astronomers recently shared their results online in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement.

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