WR 25 XMM/EPIC image
Credit: A. J. J. Raassen et al., 2003, Astronomy & Astrophysics, vol. 402, pp. 653-666

Stellar Brotherhood

Wolf-Rayet stars are believed to be evolved, massive stars and the precursors of supernovae. They are rather mysterious since they are shrouded by a thick wind which constantly blows from the star into interstellar space, keeping astronomers from directly viewing the stellar surface. Much is hidden by the WR star's wind, and astronomers still do not have a clear understanding of basic stellar parameters like size and temperature despite nearly 150 years of study. Sensitive new X-ray observatories like Chandra and XMM-Newton are helping astronomers understand these objects by probing the X-ray emission from these stars. The image above left shows what is thought to be a "young" Wolf-Rayet star, WR 25, in the Carina Nebula, as seen by the X-ray cameras on XMM-Newton. WR 25 is one of the brightest X-ray emitting WR stars known and is the bright source at the center of this false-color image. On the right is an overlay of the X-ray contours on an optical image of the region, showing emission from WR 25 and other sources, like WR 25's famous neighbor Eta Carinae. The new XMM-Newton observations show surprisingly high temperature emission (near 30 million degrees) from this star. These observations and other earlier ones suggest that WR 25 may in fact have a hidden companion nearby.

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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 Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:27:17 EDT