An X-ray Study of Massive Star Forming Regions with Chandra

Open Access
Wang, Junfeng
Graduate Program:
Astronomy and Astrophysics
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
October 02, 2007
Committee Members:
  • Eric D Feigelson, Committee Chair
  • Leisa K Townsley, Committee Member
  • Kevin Luhman, Committee Member
  • Hiroshi Ohmoto, Committee Member
  • Donald P Schneider, Committee Member
  • Richard Alan Wade, Committee Member
  • star formation
  • X-rays
  • star cluster
  • initial mass function
Massive stars are characterized by powerful stellar winds, strong ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and consequently devastating supernovae explosions, which have a profound influence on their natal clouds and galaxy evolution. However, the formation and evolution of massive stars themselves and how their low-mass siblings are affected in the wind-swept and UV-radiation-dominated environment are not well understood. Much of the stellar populations inside of the massive star forming regions (MSFRs) are poorly studied in the optical and IR wavelengths because of observational challenges caused by large distance, high extinction, and heavy contamination from unrelated sources. Although it has long been recognized that X-rays open a new window to sample the young stellar populations residing in the MSFRs, the low angular resolution of previous generation X-ray telescopes has limited the outcome from such studies. The sensitive high spatial resolution X-ray observations enabled by the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS) have significantly improved our ability to study the X-ray-emitting populations in the MSFRs in the last few years. In this thesis, I analyzed seven high spatial resolution Chandra/ACIS images of two massive star forming complexes, namely the NGC 6357 region hosting the 1~Myr old Pismis 24 cluster (Chapter 3) and the Rosette Complex including the 2~Myr old NGC~2244 cluster immersed in the Rosette Nebula (Chapter 4), embedded clusters in the Rosette Molecular Cloud (RMC; Chapter 5), and a triggered cluster NGC 2237 (Chapter 6). The X-ray sampled stars were studied in great details. The unique power of X-ray selection of young stellar cluster members yielded new knowledge in the stellar populations, the cluster structures, and the star formation histories. The census of cluster members is greatly improved in each region. A large fraction of the X-ray detections have optical or near-infrared (NIR) stellar counterparts (from 2MASS, SIRIUS and FLAMINGOS JHK images), most of which are previously uncatalogued young cluster members. This provides a reliable probe of the rich intermediate-mass and low-mass young stellar populations accompanying the massive OB stars in each region. For example, In the poorly-studied NGC 6357 region, our study increased the number of known members from optical study by a factor of 40. As a result, normal initial mass functions (IMFs) for NGC 6357 and NGC~2244 were found, inconsistent with the top-heavy IMFs suspected in previous optical studies. The observed X-ray luminosity functions (XLFs) in NGC 6357 and NGC 2244 are compared to the Orion Nebula Cluster XLF, yielding the first estimate of NGC 6357's total cluster population, a few times the known Orion population. For NGC 2244, a total population of 2000 X-ray-emitting stars is derived, consistent with previous estimate from IR studies. The morphologies and spatial structures of the clusters are investigated with absorption-stratified stellar surface density maps. Small-scale substructures superposed on the spherical clusters are found in NGC 6357 and NGC 2244. Both of their radial stellar density profiles show a power-law cusp around the density peak surrounded by an isothermal sphere. In NGC 2244, the spatial distribution of X-ray stars is strongly concentrated around the central O5 star, HD 46150. The other O4 star HD 46223 has few companions. The X-ray sources in the RMC show three distinctive structures and substructures within them, which include previously known embedded IR clusters and a new unobscured cluster (RMC A). We do not find clear evidence of sequentially triggered formation. The concentration of X-ray identified young stars implies that <35% of stars could be in a distributed population throughout the RMC region and clustered star formation is the dominant mode in this cloud. The NGC 2237 cluster, similar to RMC A, may have formed from collapse of pre-existing massive molecular clumps accompanying the formation of the NGC 2244 cluster. The spatial distribution of the NIR counterparts to X-ray stars in the optical dark region northwest of NGC 2237 show little evidence of triggered star formation in the pillar objects. The observed inner disk fraction in the MSFRs as indicated by K-band excess appears lower than the IR-excess disk fractions found in the nearby low-mass star formation regions of similar age. An overall K-excess disk frequency of 6% for X-ray selected stars in the intermediate- to high-mass range in the NGC 6357 region (Chapter 3), and 10% for stars with mass M > 2Msun in NGC 2244 (Chapter 4) are derived, which indicates that the inner disks around higher-mass stars evolve more rapidly. The X-ray stars in these regions provide an important new sample for studies of intermediate-mass PMS stars that are not accreting, in addition to the accreting HAeBe stars. The low K-excess disk frequency for X-ray selected stars in the solar mass range in NGC 2244 is intriguing, which may be attributed to different sensitivities to disk materials, selection effects between X-ray samples and IR samples and/or faster disk dissipation due to photoevaporation in the MSFRs. X-ray properties of stars across the mass spectrum are presented. Diversities in the X-ray spectra of O stars are seen, both soft X-ray emission consistent with the micro-shocks in stellar winds and hard X-ray components signifying magnetically confined winds or close binarity. X-ray luminosities for a sample of stars earlier than B4 in NGC 6357, NGC 2244, and M 17 confirm the long-standing logLx/Lbol ~ -7 relation, although larger scatter is seen among the Lx/Lbol ratios of B-type stars. Low-mass PMS stars frequently show X-ray flaring, including intense flares with luminosities above Lx>1E+32 ergs/s. Diffuse X-ray emission is present in the NGC 6357 region and in the NGC 2244 cluster. The derived luminosity of diffuse emission in NGC 6357 is consistent with the integrated emission from the unresolved PMS stars. The NGC 2244 diffuse emission is likely originated from the wind termination shocks, and hence is truly diffuse in nature. In summary, Chandra X-ray observations offer multifaceted approaches to study the young stellar clusters in MSFRs in depth. Future perspectives with the Spitzer Space Telescope mid-IR observations for a systematic measurement of disk frequencies in X-ray sampled massive clusters and X-ray observations of the earliest phases of massive star formation are discussed.