XMM color X-ray image of NGC 6231
Credit: Sana et al (2005), Liège Astrophysical Institute (Belgium) and ESA

Color Open Cluster

A deep observation with the XMM-Newton Observatory has given astronomers one of the most detailed views of the X-ray emission from a birthplace of massive stars, the open cluster NGC 6231 which lies at the heart of the Scorpius OB1 association. The image above shows an upclose view of NGC 6231 in X-rays, in which color stands for X-ray energy: blue for high energy X-rays, red for low-energy X-rays. The brightest source, at the center of the image above, is a massive binary system in which the X-ray emission arises from the collision of the wind from one star with the wind of its companion. Other stars may be "hidden binaries" in which the companion's presence might only be revealed by the X-rays generated in the wind-wind collision zone. X-rays from single massive stars is believed to arise from pockets of hot shocked gas embedded in the stars wind, though astronomers still don't understand the details of this process.

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:27:17 EDT