Credit: NASA/GSFC/M.Corcoran et al.
Where the Stars Are
Massive stars are gregarious from birth. The tend to form in tight groups
called star clusters or OB associations. These massive stars forming
regions are often called starbursts
since the formation of these stars is so rapid and so violent. Such regions
are rare in the Milky Way, though they act as agents of change in the
Galaxy in a number of ways: strong winds from the massive stars blow out
into the Galaxy and re-arrange the interstellar gas and dust; the high
energy radiation from the stars heats the Galaxy; and finally these stars
will explode as supernova, violently disrupting their neighborhoods (but
maybe triggering another starburst somewhere else). The false-color image
above is a Chandra X-ray image of
NGC 3603, one of the regions of the Milky Way where dozens of extremely
massive stars were born in a burst of star formation about 2 million years
ago. The dots in the picture represent X-ray bright stars, some of which
are known massive stars, and many of which are as yet unidentified. The
image shows the X-ray intensity, where green is faint, red is brighter, and
blue-white is brightest. The number of X-ray stars increases dramatically
near the center of NGC 3603 at the center of the image. The image above
right shows a zoomed image of the central part of the cluster. The "white"
star at the center is the brightest X-ray emitting object in the field is
probably a binary in which the X-rays are produced when the powerful wind
from one of the stars collides with the wind from the other in between the
two stars. For comparison, the other X-ray bright "star" in the center to
the right of the brightest object, is actually composed of the emission of
4 stars packed so tightly they appear as one to Chandra.
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Page Author: Dr. Michael F.
Last modified February 10, 2001