July 14, 2024

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NASA’s Chandra X-ray captures the cluster of “super” stars closest to Earth

NASA’s Chandra X-ray captures the cluster of “super” stars closest to Earth
New Delhi: Westerlund 1The largest and closest “super” star cluster to Earth is being closely monitored by new data from NASA Chandra x-ray Observatory and others NASA Telescopes. These observations help astronomers study this active star-producing region in more detail.
This represents the first publicly released data from a project called the Extended Westerlund Open Collections Survey 1 and 2 (EWOCS). EWOCS It is led by astronomers from the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics in Palermo. Chandra observed Westerlund 1 for about 12 days as part of EWOCS.
Nowadays, only a few stars form in our galaxy each year. However, in the past, the Milky Way produced so many stars that it peaked about 10 billion years ago, and dozens or hundreds were formed annually. Most of this happened in massive clusters, known as “superclusters,” such as Westerlund 1. These clusters are young and contain more than 10,000 times the mass of the Sun. Westerlund 1 is between 3 and 5 million years old.
The new image includes Chandra depth data and previous data from NASA’s Hubble Telescope space telescope. Chandra’s X-rays reveal young stars and hot gas spreading through the cluster. Young stars appear mostly white and pink, while hot gas appears pink, green and blue (as temperatures rise). The Hubble data highlights many stars as yellow and blue dots.
There are a few superclusters of stars in our galaxy today. They provide valuable insights into the era in which most of our galaxy’s stars formed. Westerlund 1 is the largest remaining Super star group In the Milky Way. It has a mass between 50,000 and 100,000 times that of the Sun and is the closest to Earth at about 13,000 light-years away.
These features make Westerlund 1 an ideal target to study the influence of the supercluster environment on star and planet formation. Researchers can also study the evolution of stars across different masses.
New Chandra data from Westerlund 1 have greatly increased the number of known X-ray sources in the cluster. Previously, Chandra detected 1,721 sources in Westerlund 1. The EWOCS data revealed nearly 6,000 X-ray sources, including many faint stars with masses less than the Sun. This has provided astronomers with a new set of stars to study.
One notable discovery is that 1,075 stars are packed into the core of Westerlund 1 within a radius of four light-years. To illustrate, four light years is the distance between the Sun and its nearest neighboring star.
The diffuse emission in the EWOCS data has led to the first detection of a halo of hot gas around the center of Westerlund 1. Astronomers believe this is crucial for understanding the cluster’s formation and evolution and to better estimate its mass.