You like and death of stars in the Andromeda galaxy: "Two ESA telescopes have joined forces to observe the Andromeda galaxy from a new perspective.Herschel is able to distinguish the rings where new stars form , while XMM-Newton captures the X-rays that throw space the stars in agony.

During Christmas 2010, ESA's Herschel and XMM-Newton space telescopes pointed to the nearest spiral galaxy, the M31, which is similar to our Milky Way galaxy: both contain several hundred This is the most detailed image ever taken of the Andromeda galaxy in the infrared band, where you can clearly distinguish regions where new stars are forming.

The Herschel space telescope , capable of and capture the light in the far infrared band, has revealed the clouds of gas and cold dust inside the stars. Within these great clouds, the new stars begin to form in the bosom of clusters of dust that are nourished in a slow gravitational process that can last hundreds of millions of years. Once the new star has acquired sufficient density, it will begin to glow in the wavelengths of visible light, emerging from its natal cloud and showing itself before ordinary telescopes.

The X-ray image taken almost simultaneously by the ESA XMM-Newton telescope is superimposed over the infrared image. While infrared wavelengths allow observing stars in formation, X-rays usually reveal stars that are reaching the end of their life.

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XMM-Newton shows a large number of X-ray sources in the Andromeda galaxy, many of them grouped around the center of the galaxy, where normally the star density is higher. These emissions reveal shockwaves or fragments of a star bursting across interstellar space, others indicate pairs of stars engaged in a gravitational fight to the death.

In this peculiar dance, one of the stars has already dead and dragging the gas of his still active partner. As the gas passes through interstellar space, it heats up and begins to emit X-rays. The active star can become exhausted, stripped of much of its mass by the strong gravitational field of its companion, of greater density. The dead star, wrapped in a stolen gas mantle, may explode.

Both the infrared and X-ray images show information that would be impossible to collect from the ground, since these wavelengths Are absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere. The flickering stars we see from Earth is beautiful, but it hides much of the information. The visible light shows us the adult stars, while the infrared reveals those in formation and the X-rays that have reached their final agony.

In order to study the life cycle of stars, it is necessary to observe all its stages, and it is precisely here where the contribution of Herschel and XMM-Newton is fundamental.

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  • Adam Floyd