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X-ray Emissions From Stars Similar to the Sun Located Outside of the Milky Way for the First Time

Apr 03, 2013 01:16 PM EDT
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For the first time scientists have located X-ray emmissions young stars with similar masses to our Sun located outside of the Milky Way.

Located in the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), the stars were spotted using the NASA X-ray telescope Chandra, according to a press release issued by NASA.

Specifically, the stars were located in a region of the SMC called the "Wing." Characterized by fewer metals than most areas within the Milky Way as well as relatively lower amounts of gas, dust and stars, the Wing has long served as a prime location for astronomers looking to study the life cycle of stars and the gas between them as they replicate what would have existed in the early Universe, according to scientists.

Most star formations that occur in the Wing do so in the tip in a small area known as NGC 602. In all, this area contains a collection of three sart clusters, one of which, NGC 602a, is similar in age, mass and size to the Orion Nebula Cluster.

It was here, from two of the most densely populated areas in NGC 602a, that NASA scientists discovered the extended X-ray cloud that likely comes from the population of young, low-mass stars in the cluster - a presence previously picked out using the infra-red detecting Spitzer and the Hubble telescope. 

Scientists ruled out the possibility that what they have really stumbled upon is hot gas blown away by massive stars since the stars in NGC 602a are believed to have weak winds due to their low metal content. Furthermore, they have not been able to detect any X-ray emission from the biggest stars in that region, which would be true if this were the case.

What's more, these metal-poor stars produce X-rays similar to stars with much higher metal content found in the Orion cluster. For this and other reasons, scientists at NASA believe that if the X-ray properties of young stars are similar in different environments, then so are their properties, including the formation and evolution of the disks that ultimately give rise to planets.

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