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Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 8:28 EDT

Stars of Wonder, Stars of Infrared and X-ray Light

December 23, 2004

NASA/Harvard – This montage shows three clusters of bright, young stars in X-ray (blue) and infrared (green) light that lie in the direction of the center of the Galaxy.

Like many stars in the disk of the Galaxy, they are difficult, if not impossible, to see with an optical telescope because of interstellar dust that blocks the visible light.

Infrared and X-ray data provide evidence for a large amount of dust and gas along the line of sight to the cluster, DB01-42. Invisible to optical telescopes, it is located near the Galactic Center, about 25,000 light years from Earth.

Most of the stars in the image produce infrared radiation from their surfaces which have temperatures of several thousand degrees Celsius. The X-radiation from the two bright X-ray sources near the center of the cluster requires gas with temperatures of millions of degrees.

Such extremely hot gas may be due to the collision of stellar winds from two closely orbiting stars. The two bright X-ray sources in the image are likely close binary stars with high-speed stellar winds. The diffuse X-ray glow could be caused by the combined heating of gas in the cluster by winds from many stars.

The light from the stars in the two clusters, DB00-58 and DB00-6 show much less X-ray and infrared absorption.

This lower absorption, which still blocks much of the visible light, indicates that these star clusters are not in the Galactic Center, but are foreground objects. The way in which the X-rays are produced in these clusters is likely to be similar to DB01-42.

Animations of DB01-42, DB00-58 & DB00-6

DB01-42 in context of the Milky Way Center
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This series of images puts the cluster known as DB01-42 in context with Chandra’s 900- by 400-light year mosaic of the Galactic Center. The view then transitions to radio emission from a smaller region that includes DB01-42, before showing infrared data of the same area, and ending with Chandra’s X-ray close-up. Chandra’s X-ray data have helped astronomers identify DB01-42 as a member of the Galactic Center. It is about 25,000 light years away from Earth.
[Run Time: 0:10]
(Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Northwestern U./C.Law & F.Yusef-Zadeh; Infrared: 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSF; Radio: NRAO/VLA/F.Zadeh et al.)

Towards the Milky Way: DB00-58
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This series of images shows the DB00-58 star cluster in context with Chandra’s 900- by 400-light year mosaic of the Galactic Center. The view then transitions to infrared emission from a smaller region that includes DB00-58, before showing Chandra’s X-ray close-up. Despite DB00-58′s similar appearance to DB01-42 (#1, above), the X-ray and infrared information show that DB00-58 is, in fact, a foreground object, and is significantly closer to us than 25,000 light years.
[Run Time: 0:20]
(Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Northwestern U./C.Law & F.Yusef-Zadeh; Infrared: 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSF)

Towards the Milky Way: DB00-6
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This series of images shows the DB00-58 star cluster in context with Chandra’s 900- by 400-light year mosaic of the Galactic Center. The view then transitions to radio emission from a smaller region that includes DB00-6, before showing infrared data, and ending with Chandra’s X-ray close-up. Despite DB00-6′s similar appearance to DB01-42 (#1, above), the X-ray and infrared information show that DB00-6 is, in fact, a foreground object, and is significantly closer to us than 25,000 light years.
[Run Time: 0:24]
(Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Northwestern U./C.Law & F.Yusef-Zadeh; Infrared: 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSF; Radio: NRAO/VLA/F.Zadeh et al.)

About Chandra

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, which was launched and deployed by Space Shuttle Columbia on July 23, 1999, is the most sophisticated X-ray observatory built to date.

Chandra is designed to observe X-rays from high-energy regions of the universe, such as the remnants of exploded stars. The two images of the Crab Nebula supernova remnant and its pulsar shown below illustrate how higher resolution can reveal important new features.

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Stars of Wonder Stars of Infrared and X-ray Light Stars of Wonder Stars of Infrared and X-ray Light Stars of Wonder Stars of Infrared and X-ray Light Stars of Wonder Stars of Infrared and X-ray Light