Spitzer IR and XMM X-ray image of star forming region Berkley 87
Credit: L. M. Oskinova, R. A. Gruendl, Spitzer Space Telescope, JPL, NASA and ESA

Busy Being Born, Busy Dying

Star formation is a difficult process to understand. Not only is it hidden behind large clouds of dense gas and dust (the raw material out of which stars form) but, since stars interact with their environment (through radiation, stellar winds and supernovae), the very act of formation changes the way subsequent generations of stars can form. Astronomers struggle to understand how individual stars of all masses form, and how the formation of groups of stars proceeds in time. Which stars form first, and which follow? A particularly powerful tool in the astronomical arsenal is the combination of observations in the infrared and in the X-ray bands. Infrared radiation helps pinpoint the densest regions of dust heated by newly-formed stars, while powerful X-ray emission can penetrate even the densest walls of dust to reveal hidden young active stars. The image above is a composite of an infrared image (from the Spitzer Space Observatory) and an X-ray image (from the XMM-Newton Observatory) of the star forming region known as Berkeley 87. The infrared image, shown in red and green, highlights dense clouds of dust while the X-ray image (in blue) shows emission from embedded, hidden stars along with (perhaps) diffuse emission produced by the interplay of charged particles trapped by magnetic field lines. There's even X-ray emission from an "old" young star named WR 142 - this star has run through its nuclear fuel and is probably on the verge of exploding as a supernova. What will happen to the star forming environment then?
Published: August 2, 2010

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Each week the HEASARC brings you new, exciting and beautiful images from X-ray and Gamma ray astronomy. Check back each week and be sure to check out the HEAPOW archive!

Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran

Last modified Monday, 09-Aug-2010 09:31:40 EDT