composite image of the Medusa galaxy (also known as NGC 4194) shows X-ray data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in blue and optical light from the Hubble Space Telescope in orange
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ of Iowa/P.Kaaret et al.; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI/Univ of Iowa/P.Kaaret et al.

The Birth and Death of Stars

Billions of stars form in galaxies. Far fewer can turn into neutron stars or black holes after burning out their nuclear fuel and exploding as supernovae. But what's the actual tie-in between the formation of neutron stars and the birth of their progenitors? A recent survey of select galaxies using the Chandra X-ray Observatory to measure the population of dead stars from their X-ray emission, plus detailed observations with the Hubble Space Telescope to study the population of newly-formed stars shows in some detail the connection between the birth and death of stars. The image above, a composite X-ray and optical image of the Medusa galaxy, shows hot plasma produced by neutron stars and black holes in blue, along with the optical emission in orange. This study shows that both the number of bright X-ray sources and their average brightness are apparently related to the rate at which stars formed, and that only one ton of gas gets pulled onto a stellar mass black hole or neutron star per million tons of gas that forms stars.
Published: March 23, 2009

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:25:29 EDT