Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2023 July 25
Pillars of gas and dark dust extend diagonally from the bottom left
to the upper right. Bright X-ray sources are superimposed as bright dots
around the image. Infrared dust glows behind the pillars.
Please see the explanation for more detailed information.

The Eagle Nebula with X-ray Hot Stars
Image Credit: X-ray: Chandra: NASA/CXC/SAO, XMM: ESA/XMM-Newton; IR: JWST: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI, Spitzer: NASA/JPL/CalTech; Visible: Hubble: NASA/ESA/STScI, ESO; Image Processing: L. Frattare, J. Major, N. Wolk, and K. Arcand

Explanation: What do the famous Eagle Nebula star pillars look like in X-ray light? To find out, NASA's orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory peered in and through these interstellar mountains of star formation. It was found that in M16 the dust pillars themselves do not emit many X-rays, but a lot of small-but-bright X-ray sources became evident. These sources are shown as bright dots on the featured image which is a composite of exposures from Chandra (X-rays), XMM (X-rays), JWST (infrared), Spitzer (infrared), Hubble (visible), and the VLT (visible). What stars produce these X-rays remains a topic of research, but some are hypothesized to be hot, recently-formed, low-mass stars, while others are thought to be hot, older, high-mass stars. These X-ray hot stars are scattered around the frame -- the previously identified Evaporating Gaseous Globules (EGGS) seen in visible light are not currently hot enough to emit X-rays.

Tomorrow's picture: undersea overhead

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