We present the first high spatial resolution X-ray study of the massive star-forming region NGC 6357, obtained in a 38 ks Chandra/ACIS observation. Inside the brightest constituent of this large H H region complex is the massive open cluster Pismis 24. It contains two of the brightest and bluest stars known, yet remains poorly studied; only a handful of optically bright stellar members have been identified. We investigate the cluster extent and initial mass function and detect ∼800 X-ray sources with a limiting sensitivity of ∼1030 ergs s-1; this provides the first reliable probe of the rich intermediate-mass and low-mass population of this massive cluster, increasing the number of known members from optical study by a factor of ∼50. The high-luminosity end (log Lh[2-8 keV] ≥ 30.3 ergs s-1) of the observed X-ray luminosity function in NGC 6357 is clearly consistent with a power-law relation as seen in the Orion Nebula Cluster and Cepheus B, yielding the first estimate of NGC 6357's total cluster population, a few times the known Orion population. We investigate the structure of the cluster, finding small-scale substructures superposed on a spherical cluster with 6 pc extent, and discuss its relationship to the nebular morphology. The long-standing LX - 10-7 Lbol correlation for O stars is confirmed. Twenty-four candidate O stars and one possible new obscured massive YSO or Wolf-Rayet star are presented. Many cluster members are estimated to be intermediate-mass stars from available infrared photometry (assuming an age of ∼1 Myr), but only a few exhibit K-band excess. We report the first detection of X-ray emission from an evaporating gaseous globule at the tip of a molecular pillar; this source is likely a BO-B2 protostar.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science