Credit: NASA/Penn State University

Revealing Young Stars

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has resolved nearly a thousand faint X-ray-emitting stars in a single observation of young stars in the Orion Nebula, a nearby nursery of young massive stars. Young stars, such as those found in Orion, are known to be much brighter in X-rays than middle-aged stars such as the Sun. The elevated X-ray emission is thought to arise from violent flares in strong magnetic fields near the surfaces of young stars, though the exact mechanism is not fully understood. The Sun itself was probably thousands of times brighter in X-rays during its first few million years. X-ray images can help astronomers to study this activity, and to identify newly formed stars. The X-ray image above, obtained by the Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS) shows about a thousand X-ray emitting young stars in the Orion Nebula cluster. The region shown in this image is about 10 light years across. The bright stars in the center are part of the Trapezium, an association of very young stars with ages less than a million years. The dark vertical and horizontal lines, and the streaks from the brightest stars are instrumental effects. The ACIS team studying the Orion X-ray source includes Profs. Feigelson and Garmire and research scientists Patrick Broos, Leisa Townsley, and Yohko Tsuboi at Penn State; Steven Pravdo at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory; and Lynne Hillenbrand at the California Institute of Technology. More information is available in the press release.

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified February 27, 2000