Taken Under the "Wing" of the Small Magellanic Cloud

Stsci_stsci-prc-2013-17-a_500

stsci_STScI-PRC-2013-17-a April 4th, 2013

Credit: NASA, ESA, CXC and the University of Potsdam, JPL-Caltech, and STScI

The Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) is one of the Milky Way's closest galactic neighbors. Even though it is a small or so-called dwarf galaxy, the SMC is so bright that it is visible to the unaided eye from the Southern Hemisphere and near the equator. Many navigators, including Ferdinand Magellan who lends his name to the SMC, used it to help find their way across the oceans. Modern astronomers are also interested in studying the SMC (and its cousin, the Large Magellanic Cloud), but for very different reasons. Because the SMC is so close and bright, it offers an opportunity to study phenomena that are difficult to examine in more distant galaxies. New Chandra data of the SMC have provided one such discovery: the first detection of X-ray emission from young stars, with masses similar to our Sun, outside our Milky Way galaxy. The new Chandra observations of these low-mass stars were made of the region known as the "Wing" of the SMC. In this composite image of the Wing, the Chandra data are shown in purple, optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope are shown in red, green, and blue, and infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope are shown in red. Astronomers call all elements heavier than hydrogen and helium - that is, with more than two protons in the atom's nucleus - "metals." The Wing is a region known to have fewer metals compared to most areas within the Milky Way. There are also relatively lower amounts of gas, dust, and stars in the Wing compared to the Milky Way. Taken together, these properties make the Wing an excellent location to study the life cycle of stars and the gas lying in between them. Not only are these conditions typical for dwarf irregular galaxies like the SMC, they also mimic ones that would have existed in the early universe. Most star formation near the tip of the Wing is occurring in a small region known as NGC 602, which contains a collection of at least three star clusters. One of them, NGC 602a, is similar in age, mass, and size to the famous Orion Nebula Cluster. Researchers have studied NGC 602a to see if young stars - that is, those only a few million years old - have different properties when they have low levels of metals, like the ones found in NGC 602a. Using Chandra, astronomers saw extended X-ray emission, from the two most densely populated regions in NGC 602a. The extended X-ray cloud likely comes from the population of young, low-mass stars in the cluster, which have previously been picked out by infrared and optical surveys using Spitzer and Hubble, respectively. This emission is not likely to be hot gas blown away by massive stars, because the low metal content of stars in NGC 602a implies that these stars should have weak winds. The failure to detect X-ray emission from the most massive star in NGC 602a supports this conclusion, because X-ray emission is an indicator of the strength of winds from massive stars. No individual low-mass stars are detected, but the overlapping emission from several thousand stars is bright enough to be observed. The Chandra results imply that the young, metal-poor stars in NGC 602 produce X-rays in a matter similar to stars with much higher metal content found in the Orion cluster in our galaxy. The authors speculate that if the X-ray properties of young stars are similar in different environments, then other related properties - including the formation and evolution of disks where planets form - are also likely to be similar. X-ray emission traces the magnetic activity of young stars and is related to how efficiently their magnetic dynamo operates. Magnetic dynamos generate magnetic fields in stars through a process involving the star's rotation speed and convection, the rising and falling of hot gas in the star's interior. The combined X-ray, optical, and infrared data also revealed, for the first time outside our galaxy, objects representative of an even younger stage of evolution of a star. These so-called "young stellar objects" have ages of a few thousand years and are still embedded in the pillar of dust and gas from which stars form, as in the famous "Pillars of Creation" of the Eagle Nebula. A paper describing these results was published online and in the March 1, 2013, issue of The Astrophysical Journal. The first author is Lidia Oskinova from the University of Potsdam in Germany.

Image Source: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2013/17/image/a

Curator: STScI, Baltimore, MD, USA

Image Use Policy: http://hubblesite.org/copyright/

Image Details

Image Type
Observation
Object Name
NGC 602
Subject - Local Universe
Nebula » Appearance » Emission
Mission Graphics » Infrared Imagery

Distance

Universescale2
196,000 light years
Stsci_stsci-prc-2013-17-a_128
 

Position Details

Position (ICRS)
RA = 1h 29m 30.9s
DEC = -73° 33’ 17.4”
Orientation
North is 90.0° CCW
Field of View
2.8 x 2.8 arcminutes
Constellation
Hydrus

Color Mapping

  Telescope Spectral Band Wavelength
Arrow_left_blue Hubble (ACS) Optical (V) 555.0 nm
Arrow_left_green Hubble (ACS) Optical (V) 555.0 nm
Arrow_left_red Hubble (ACS) Optical (Halpha,[NII]) 658.0 nm
Arrow_left_green Hubble (ACS) Optical (I) 814.0 nm
Arrow_left_red Hubble (ACS) Optical (I) 814.0 nm
Arrow_left_purple Chandra X-Ray -
Arrow_left_red Spitzer Infrared -
July 14/18, 2004
Spectrum_xray1w
Arrow_top_blue
Arrow_top_green
Arrow_top_red
Arrow_top_green
Arrow_top_red
Stsci_stsci-prc-2013-17-a_1280
×
ID
STScI-PRC-2013-17-a
Subject Category
C.4.2.1, C.3.6.4.1   X.Star.Cluster.Open, Nebula.Emission  
Subject Name
NGC 602
Credits
NASA, ESA, CXC and the University of Potsdam, JPL-Caltech, and STScI
Lightyears
196,000
Redshift
Reference Url
http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2013/17/image/a
Type
Observation
Image Quality
Good
Distance Notes
Approximately 196,000 light-years (61 kiloparsecs).
Facility
Hubble, Hubble, Hubble, Hubble, Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer
Instrument
ACS, ACS, ACS, ACS, ACS, -, -
Color Assignment
Blue, Green, Red, Green, Red, Purple, Red
Band
Optical, Optical, Optical, Optical, Optical, X-Ray, Infrared
Bandpass
V, V, Halpha,[NII], I, I, -, -
Central Wavelength
555, 555, 658, 814, 814, -, -
Start Time
2004-07-14, 2004-07-14, 2004-07-18, 2004-07-14, 2004-07-14, -, -
Integration Time
3821, 3821, 1908, 2825, 2825, -, -
Dataset ID
J92F05020,J92FA6R7Q,J92F07RHQ,J92F07S6Q,J92F07T4Q, J92F05020,J92FA6R7Q,J92F07RHQ,J92F07S6Q,J92F07T4Q, J92FA6010, J92F05010,J92FA6QZQ,J92F07SOQ, J92F05010,J92FA6QZQ,J92F07SOQ, -, -
Notes
J
Coordinate Frame
ICRS
Equinox
2000.0
Reference Value
22.37895077920, -73.55482291860
Reference Dimension
3600.00, 3600.00
Reference Pixel
1573.32676925442, 1477.73717210479
Scale
-0.00001295607, 0.00001295607
Rotation
90.00563845949
Coordinate System Projection:
TAN
Quality
Full
FITS Header
Notes
World Coordinate System resolved using PinpointWCS 0.9.2 revision 218+ by the Chandra X-ray Center FITS X FITS Y EPO X EPO Y 946.38 1419.60 2264.53 2464.24 1305.49 1508.36 2456.89 1685.90 1446.66 966.20 1285.39 1405.41 918.80 875.62 1086.37 2493.21 1807.90 1356.59 2126.94 597.77 1587.28 1805.25 3099.21 1075.90 1319.83 1051.48 1467.36 1654.78 1373.04 1278.93 1959.42 1540.00 1593.05 1333.68 2077.84 1062.78 1520.20 1468.71 2369.93 1220.91 Center Pixel Coordinates: 1800.00 22.36416400144 1800.00 -73.55773271385
Creator (Curator)
STScI
URL
http://hubblesite.org
Name
Space Telescope Science Institute Office of Public Outreach
Email
outreach@stsci.edu
Telephone
410-338-4444
Address
3700 San Martin Drive
City
Baltimore
State/Province
MD
Postal Code
21218
Country
USA
Rights
http://hubblesite.org/copyright/
Publisher
STScI
Publisher ID
stsci
Resource ID
hs-2013-17-a-full-tif.tif
Resource URL
http://archive.stsci.edu/pub/stpr/hs-2013-17-a-full-tif.tif
Related Resources
http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2013/17
Metadata Date
2014-07-21
Metadata Version
1.2
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Detailed color mapping information coming soon...

 

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Universescalefull
196,000 light years