Carina Nebula: Pumping More Than Just Iron

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Carina Nebula - Credit: NASA/CXC/PSU/L.Townsley et al

We are all just star stuff… But when it comes to the elements produced by a star, it just doesn’t get any heavier than iron. So how do more exotic elements come into existence? Try the Great Cosmic Recycler – supernova. Its energy disperses newly synthesized materials right into the interstellar neighborhood where an enriched generation of stars begin life again.
The beautiful Carina Nebula may very well be a literal supernova factory. Encompassing a large field of 1.4 square degrees, Chandra made of a mosaic of 22 individual pointings. In total, the image represents 1.2 million seconds – or nearly two weeks – of Chandra observing time. In addition, multi-wavelength data, such as infrared observations from the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Very Large Telescope (VLT), were then added to the mix to reveal that the supernova process has already begun. Clues, such as the lack of bright x-ray sources from Trumpler 15, suggest its massive stars have already been destroyed. In addition, six candidate neutron stars – instead of just one – provide additional evidence that supernova activity is gearing up in Carina.
But stellar destruction isn’t the only evidence Chandra has found. A new population of young massive stars has also been detected… potentially doubling the number of known young, massive stars which are usually destined to be destroyed later in supernova explosions. In the composite image, they appear as bright X-ray sources scattered across the x-ray emission like freckles on a child’s face. But what really holds our interest is the infamous Eta Carinae – a massive, unstable star on the brink of extinction.
Thanks to this latest research, we now know it’s not alone…

Written by physicsgg

May 25, 2011 at 7:47 am

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