Chandra X-Ray Observatory Images Star-Making Cluster Cygnus OB2
November 8, 2012

Chandra X-Ray Observatory Images Star-Making Cluster Cygnus OB2

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

NASA has released a new image of the Cygnus OB2 star cluster, detailing its structure and evolution.

The Milky Way, as well as other galaxies in the universe, are home to numerous young star clusters with hundreds of thousands of hot, massive, young stars known as O and B stars. Cygnus OB2 is one of these clusters that contains no less than 60 O-type stars and upwards of a thousand B-type stars.

Using the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, astronomers have detected the X-ray emission from the hot outer coronas of these young stars and have probed how these star-making clusters form and evolve. The observatory detected some 1,700 X-ray sources, including 1,450 that researchers believed to be stars within the cluster.

Chandra found young stars ranging in age from 1 million to 7 million years old. The infrared data indicates that a very small fraction of these stars have circum-stellar disks of dust and gas. Even fewer of these disks were found close to the massive OB stars, betraying the corrosive power of their intense radiation that leads to early destruction of their disks.

The data have also revealed evidence that the older population of stars has lost its most massive stars due to supernova explosions. Still, the star cluster has a total mass about 30,000 times that of our sun, similar to the most massive star forming regions in the Milky Way. And being Cygnus OB2 is about 5,000 light years from Earth, it is the closest massive star cluster.

Chandra searches the night sky taking X-ray images of the most exotic environments in space, allowing astronomers and scientists to better understand the structure and evolution of the universe.

The Chandra X-ray Observatory is managed by NASA´s Marshall Space Flight Center for the Science Mission Directorate, Washington D.C. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in Cambridge, Massachusetts is responsible for the day-to-day flight operations and science activities from the Operations Control Center (OCC) and Chandra X-ray Center (CXC) facilities.

The Chandra X-ray Observatory is also part of a fleet of “Great Observatories” owned by NASA. This fleet includes the long-lived Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the now de-orbited Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.