NASA shares stunning image of a cluster of stars celebrating a cosmic Christmas; calls it ‘Winter’ Wonderland!

NGC 6357 is actually a “cluster of clusters,” containing at least three clusters of young stars, including many hot, massive, luminous stars.

By Zee Media Bureau | Last Updated: Dec 20, 2016, 09:11 AM IST
NASA shares stunning image of a cluster of stars celebrating a cosmic Christmas; calls it ‘Winter’ Wonderland!
Image courtesy: X-ray: NASA/CXC/PSU/L. Townsley et al; Optical: UKIRT; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech

New Delhi: The holiday spirit seems to have gotten to everyone, it seems, even NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

The space agency, on Monday, shared an enrapturing image of a region called NGC 6357, located in our galaxy about 5,500 light years from Earth, which seems to celebrating its own cosmic Christmas!

NGC 6357 is actually a “cluster of clusters,” containing at least three clusters of young stars, including many hot, massive, luminous stars.

As per NASA, The X-rays from Chandra and ROSAT reveal hundreds of point sources, which are the young stars in NGC 6357, as well as diffuse X-ray emission from hot gas. There are bubbles, or cavities, that have been created by radiation and material blowing away from the surfaces of massive stars, plus supernova explosions.

Astronomers call NGC 6357 and other objects like it “HII” (pronounced “H-two”) regions. An HII region is created when the radiation from hot, young stars strips away the electrons from neutral hydrogen atoms in the surrounding gas to form clouds of ionized hydrogen, which is denoted scientifically as “HII”.

This composite image contains X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the ROSAT telescope (purple), infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (orange), and optical data from the SuperCosmos Sky Survey (blue) made by the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope.