Saturday, December 31, 2011

Nebula N90 and SXP 1062

A composite image of a portion of the Wing of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), a peripheral region of this satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. The Wing is part of the tidal feature that connects the SMC to its neighbor, the Large Magellanic Cloud.

The Wing is located at the outskirts of the SMC and is characterized by a low density of stars, gas and dust, and by low metallicity. It displays signs of recent star formation episodes that took place over the past few million years.

On the left side of the image is the iconic N90 nebula, home to NGC 602, a bright, young open cluster of stars. On the right is the newly-discovered X-ray pulsar SXP 1062, visible as a bright point-like X-ray source (shown in blue). SXP 1062 accretes mass from its stellar companion, a massive, hot, blue 'Be' star, the two objects forming a Be/X-ray binary. The X-ray emission from this object has been detected using data from ESA's XMM-Newton as well as NASA's Chandra space-based observatories.

The diffuse glow surrounding the X-ray pulsar, also visible in blue, derives from the hot gas that fills the remnant of the supernova that created the pulsar. The supernova remnant itself is also visible as a bubble-shaped feature (shown in red) enclosing the pulsar. Other point-like X-ray sources are visible in blue and are background, extragalactic objects.

This image combines a three-color composite based on optical data from NOAO's Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), obtained using two special filters that reveal the glow of oxygen and hydrogen, with X-ray data from Chandra and XMM-Newton, which are overlaid in blue.

Photo credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ.Potsdam/L. Oskinova et al & ESA/XMM-Newton; Optical: AURA/NOAO/CTIO/Univ.Potsdam/L. Oskinova et al

Note: For more information, see Strangely Slow Pulsar Discovered Nestled in Young Supernova Remnant. A similar article on the above image can be found at one of the Chandra websites; see SXP 1062: Celestial Bauble Intrigues Astronomers.

No comments: