Tarantula Nebula Composite
Credit: Q. D. Wang (Astrophysical Journal, 1999, vol. 510, L139)

A Tarantula's X-rays

Massive stars are ticking time bombs; they and do extensive damage to their galaxies, even before they blow up. These stars produce an extremely large amount of radiation (each star brighter than about 1 million suns) which produces a large sphere of hot, ionized gas around the star. These stars also possess strong winds, which produce large, wind blown "superbubbles" filled with hot, X-ray producing gas. X-ray observations of nearby star forming regions help astronomers study the interaction of these processes with the surrounding clouds of gas and dust which gave birth to the stars. One of the best places to study these phenomena is 30 Doradus, the so-called "Tarantula Nebula" in the Large Magellanic Cloud (a companion galaxy to the Milky Way). The image above shows a composite of a ROSAT High Resolution Imager X-ray observation, shown in red, along with ultraviolet emission in blue and hydrogen emission from cooler gas in green; colors combine in regions in regions of more than one type of emission. The image shows red X-ray bubbles of hot gas surrounded by cooler dense gas (in green). This image suggest that the hot wind-driven X-ray bubbles boil off cooler material from the boundary of the shock, gradually eating away the cool gas. Supernovae explosions of older (or more massive) stars may have played a role in forming the hot gas, but if so dozens of supernovae would have been necessary.

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified March 18, 2002