The Rosette Nebula, a hotbed of star formation about 5,000 light-years from Earth, is photographed in a stunning new image from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.
In the composite image of the Rosette Nebula, X-rays reveal hundreds of young stars in a central cluster with fainter clusters on either side. [New photo of the Rosette Nebula.]
On the right side of the image is a cluster named NGC 2237. A recent Chandra study, led by Junfeng Wang of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., probed the low-mass stars located in this satellite cluster.
Previously, only 36 young stars were known in NGC 2237, but Chandra data provided a much clearer census, and increased the tally of known stars to about 160.
Optical data from the Digitized Sky Survey, an online astronomy database, and the Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Ariz., are represented by the purple, orange, green and blue light. These data show large areas of gas and dust, including giant pillars that are residual landmarks leftover after intense radiation from massive stars eroded the more diffuse gas.
The presence of several X-ray emitting stars around the pillars, and the detection of an outflow of gas ? commonly associated with very young stars ? originating from a dark area of the optical image indicates that star formation is still continuing in the cluster.
Corroborating these results with earlier studies, the astronomers concluded that the central cluster in the nebula formed first. The subsequent expansion of the nebula triggered the formation of the two neighboring clusters, which includes NGC 2237.
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