Press Release

Chandra’s High Resolution Camera Examines The Orion Nebula Cluster

By SpaceRef Editor
January 9, 2001
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Chandra X-ray Observatory Center
Center for Astrophysics (CFA)
Cambridge, MA

Using the High Resolution Camera (HRC) aboard Chandra, a joint team of researchers, including E. Flaccomio, S. Sciortino, G. Micela and F. Damiani of the Osservatorio di Astronomico di Palermo and Stephen S. Murray, F. R. Harnden, Jr., and Scott Wolk of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, observed the Orion Nebula region continuously for over 17.5 hours, far surpassing X-ray studies with previous satellites that lasted for only about 45 minutes at a time. This lengthy exposure may lead scientists to re-examine the very way they classify X-ray emitting stars. Due to the information from previous studies, some stars were dubbed "bright," "faint," "variable," or "flare" stars, depending on how they appeared at the time they were observed. However, the new Chandra data indicate these differently categorized stars may not belong to separate classes, but rather are stars observed in different stages of their activity.
The Orion Nebula is a very dense concentration of about 2,000 very young stars formed during the past few million years. The discovery of such a wealth of X-ray stars in this star-forming region just 1,500 light-years from Earth may have a profound impact on the understanding of
formation and evolution of stars.
The Chandra HRC used to record these X-ray data was built by Stephen Murray and colleagues at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
A new time-lapse movie, made from hours of Chandra observations, provides a remarkable X-ray view of the Orion Nebula, one of the closest star-forming regions to Earth. This long-duration exposure shows that, over the course of mere hours, many of the 700 objects in this field appear to "shimmer," or vary, in X-ray intensity. In addition to the known stars in the Orion Nebula, several systems containing stars about to ignite their nuclear engines also show X-ray emission. The tremendous amount of X-ray energy emitted within these objects could affect any developing planetary systems in the dusty disks around these infant stars. These observations are extremely important to understand since there is evidence that our Sun and Solar System may have formed in a similar region to the Orion Nebula. NASA/CfA/S.Murray et al.
* Movie AVI (9.3 M) * Movie (Close-up) AVI (9.3 M)

SpaceRef staff editor.