The young stellar population in M17 revealed by Chandra

Patrick S. Broos, Eric D. Feigelson, Leisa K. Townsley, Konstantin V. Getman, Junfeng Wang, Gordon P. Garmire, Zhibo Jiang, Yohko Tsuboi

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119 Scopus citations


We report here results from a Chandra ACIS observation of the stellar populations in and around the M17 H II region. The field reveals 886 sources with observed X-ray luminosities (uncorrected for absorption) between ∼29.3 ergs s-1 < log Lx < 32.8 ergs s-1, 771 of which have stellar counterparts in infrared images. In addition to comprehensive tables of X-ray source properties, several results are presented: 1. The X-ray luminosity function is calibrated to that of the Orion Nebula Cluster population to infer a total population of roughly 8000-10,000 stars in M17, one-third lying in the central NGC 6618 cluster. 2. About 40% of the ACIS sources are heavily obscured with Av > 10 mag. Some are concentrated around well-studied star-forming regions - IRS 5/UC1, the Kleinmann-Wright Object, and M17-North - but most are distributed across the field. As previously shown, star formation appears to be widely distributed in the molecular clouds. X-ray emission is detected from 64 of the hundreds of Class I protostar candidates that can be identified by near- and mid-infrared colors. These constitute the most likely protostar candidates known in M17. 3. The spatial distribution of X-ray stars is complex: in addition to the central NGC 6618 cluster and well-known embedded groups, we find a new embedded cluster (designated M17-X), a 2 pc long arc of young stars along the southwest edge of the M17 H II region, and 0.1 pc substructure within various populations. These structures may indicate that the populations are dynamically young. 4. All (14/14) of the known O stars but only about half (19/34) of the known B0-B3 stars in the M17 field are detected. These stars exhibit the long-reported correlation between X-ray and bolometric luminosities of Lx∼ 10 7Lbol. While many O and early-B stars show the soft X-ray emission expected from microshocks in their winds or moderately hard emission that could be caused by magnetically channeled wind shocks, six of these stars exhibit very hard thermal plasma components (kT > 4 keV) that may be due to colliding wind binaries. More than 100 candidate new OB stars are found, including 28 X-ray detected intermediate- and high-mass protostar candidates with infrared excesses. 5. Only a small fraction (perhaps 10%) of X-ray selected high- and intermediate-mass stars exhibit K-band-emitting protoplanetary disks, providing further evidence that inner disks evolve very rapidly around more massive stars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-385
Number of pages33
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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