September 30, 2011

Five observatories for a single star cluster!

An international campaign brought together 4 space observatories: CoRoT, Spitzer, Chandra and MOST as well as the VLT in Chile which took place from September 2011 to mi-January 2012.
The target of this campaign is a young star cluster (10 million years old), quite near the Earth (680 parsecs), called NGC 2264. A star cluster is a group of stars near one from the others and formed from a single interstellar cloud. So the cluster's members are the same age and have the same chemical structure.

The 5 instruments observed quasi continuously during this period almost two thousand stars in different wavelengths from the infrared to X rays. They observed stars with very different masses and at every stages of their formations and youth.

So CoRoT (CNES + European countries) and MOST (Canada and Austria) observed the luminosity variations in the "visible" radiation. CoRoT was responsible for observing thousands of stars, including the weakest, whereas MOST was in charge of the observation of the few tens very bright objects which cannot be observed by CoRot.

Spitzer (NASA) detected the IR radiation emitted by the envelopes and the inner parts of the accretion disks which accompany the stars when contracting.

Chandra (NASA) observed the most outer regions of those disks, sources of X-rays and very short and explosive phenomena.


The main study subjects are:

  • the interaction between a formed star and the material which surrounds it;
  • the rotation and magnetic activity of the cluster's members and their distribution;
  • the detection of their internal structures using seismology techniques;
  • the search for planetary and stellar eclipses among the young stars to determine the frequency of those multiple objects (binary stars and planetary systems).

It is the first time such significant resources are coordinating their efforts to perform a simultaneous study with such different instruments. It will thus be possible to connect the phenomena observed in different regions of those objects with the interaction between the star and its environment.

CoRoT already observed this cluster in 2007 and the data richness of the products was shown: 6 articles and many symposium presentations were already based on those results.


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