Saturday, December 01, 2007

Million Degree Plasma

A million-degree plasma cloud in the Orion Nebula.

The emission coloured in blue shows X-ray emission from a hot plasma cloud in the extended regions of the Orion Nebula, detected by the XMM-Newton satellite. The background image has been recorded by the Spitzer Space Telescope in the infrared, showing emission from cool dust.

Stars in our galaxy may often pump out waves of million-degree gas that make surrounding nebulas glow with x-rays.

Astrophysicists focused on the Orion Nebula, a cloud of dense and turbulent gas visible to the naked eye in the night sky, right below the belt of the constellation Orion. Four extremely bright and massive stars, called the Trapezium, light up the nebula.

One stretch of the nebula, about 10 light-years wide, glows with x-rays. This glow apparently results from super-heated gas-some 1.7 million to 2.1 million degree Celsius hot-that pervades the cloud.

Often such vast expanses of super-heated gas come from exploded stars called supernovas or from large collections of very massive stars. Now an international research team using the XMM-Newton space observatory finds this gas seems to flow from just one bright, young, massive star in the Trapezium.

It is believed that our sun was born in an Orion-like environment.

Researchers now hope to understand how these x-ray glows might alter the environments in which planetary systems form, possibly even influencing the very chemistry of worlds.
Huge Stars Seen as Source of Glowing Gas from LiveScience
Star forming region Theta1 Orionis C from Scientific Blogging
ESA's XMM-Newton X-ray observatory images of Orion from ESA

Labels: ,