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of NGC 3576
(Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Penn State/L.Townsley et al.; Optical: DSS; Infrared: MSX)

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NGC 3576:
Massive Stars Revealed by Chandra

Credit: NASA/CXC/Penn State/L.Townsley et al.

NGC 3576 is a giant HII region of glowing gas located about 9,000 light years from Earth. In the Chandra image of this star forming region, lower-energy X-rays (0.5-2.0 keV) are shown in red and higher-energy X-rays (2-8 keV) are in blue. Chandra reveals a cluster of point-like X-ray sources, some of which are massive young stars that are shredding the cloud of gas from which they formed. The blue sources are stars that are deeply embedded in gas. Regions of diffuse X-ray emission are likely caused by hot winds flowing away from the most massive stars. Some of the diffuse gas near the center of the image is also deeply embedded.

HII (pronounced "H-two") regions are where stars are born from condensing clouds of hydrogen gas (they are named for the large amounts of ionized atomic hydrogen they contain.) These regions are characterized by hot, young, massive stars which emit large amounts of ultraviolet light and ionize the nebula. Because NGC 3576 is very dense, many of the young, massive stars visible in the Chandra image have previously been hidden from view. A cluster of stars is visible in infrared observations, but not enough young, massive stars have been identified to explain the brightness of the nebula. Astronomers have found a large flow of ionized gas in radio observations and huge bubbles in optical images that extend out from the edge of the HII region. Taken with the X-ray data, this information hints that powerful winds are emerging from this hidden cluster.

Fast Facts for NGC 3576:
Credit  NASA/CXC/Penn State/L.Townsley et al.
Scale  Image is 14 arcmin
Category  Normal Stars & Star Clusters
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 11h 11m 53.80s | Dec -61º 18' 25.00"
Constellation  Carina
Observation Dates  Jul 21 & 23, 2005
Observation Time  17 hours
Obs. IDs  4496, 6349
Color Code  Energy (Red: 0.5-2 keV; Blue: 2-8 keV)
Instrument  ACIS
Distance Estimate  About 9,000 light years
Release Date  September 27, 2006