Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Nearby Massive Star Cluster Yields Insights Into Early Universe

Date:
July 27, 1998
Source:
Space Telescope Science Institute
Summary:
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has taken a "family portrait" of young, ultra-bright stars nested in their embryonic cloud of glowing gases. The celestial maternity ward, called N81, is located 200,000 light- years away in the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), a small irregular satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. These are probably the youngest massive stars ever seen in the SMC.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has taken a "family portrait" of young, ultra-bright stars nested in their embryonic cloud of glowing gases. The celestial maternity ward, called N81, is located 200,000 light- years away in the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), a small irregular satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. These are probably the youngest massive stars ever seen in the SMC.

The nebula offers a unique opportunity for a close-up glimpse at the "firestorm" accompanying the birth of extremely massive stars, each blazing with the brilliance of 300,000 of our suns. Such galactic fireworks were much more common billions of years ago in the early universe, when most star formation took place.

"This is giving us new insights into the physical mechanisms governing star formation in far away galaxies that existed long ago," says Mohammad Heydari-Malayeri, who headed the international team of astronomers who made the discovery using Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2.

Because the stars of the SMC are deficient in heavier elements, they too evolve much like the universe's earliest stars, which were made almost exclusively of primordial elements hydrogen and helium that were cooked up in the big bang. In fact, the SMC is a unique laboratory for studying star formation in the early universe since it is the closest and best seen galaxy containing so-called “metal-poor” first and second generation type stars.

Hubble's exquisite resolution allows astronomers to pinpoint 50 separate stars tightly packed in the nebula's core within a 10 light-year diameter - slightly more than twice the distance between earth and the nearest star to our sun. The closest pair of stars is only 1/3 of a light-year apart.

These observations show that massive stars may form in groups. "As a result, it is more likely some of these stars are members of double and multiple star systems," says Heydari-Malayeri. "The multiple systems will affect stellar evolution considerably by ejecting a great deal of matter into space.”

This furious rate of mass loss from these stars is evident in the Hubble picture, which reveals dramatic shapes sculpted in the nebula's wall of glowing gases by violent stellar winds and shock waves. "This implies a very turbulent environment typical of young star formation regions." Heydari-Malayeri adds.

He believes one of the members of the cluster may be an extremely rare and short-lived class of super-hot star (50,000 degrees Kelvin) called a Wolf-Rayet. This star represents a violent, transitional phase in the final years of a massive star's existence - before it ultimately explodes as a supernova.

"If confirmed by future Hubble observations, this finding will have a far reaching impact on stellar evolutionary models," says Heydari-Malayeri. "That's because the Wolf-Rayet candidate is fainter than other such stars in that galaxy, in contrast with the predictions of these models.”

Before the Hubble observations, N81 was simply dubbed "The Blob" because its features were indistinguishable in ground-based telescopes.

The Hubble observations of N81 were conducted by the European astronomers Mohammad Heydari-Malayeri (Paris Observatory, France) and co-investigators Michael Rosa (Space Telescope-European Coordinating Facility, European Southern Observatory, Germany), Hans Zinnecker (Astrophysics Institute, Potsdam, Germany), Lise Deharveng (Marseille Observatory, France), and Vassilis Charmandaris (Paris Observatory).

Their work will be shortly submitted for publication in the European journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Space Telescope Science Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Space Telescope Science Institute. "Nearby Massive Star Cluster Yields Insights Into Early Universe." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 July 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/07/980727081149.htm>.
Space Telescope Science Institute. (1998, July 27). Nearby Massive Star Cluster Yields Insights Into Early Universe. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/07/980727081149.htm
Space Telescope Science Institute. "Nearby Massive Star Cluster Yields Insights Into Early Universe." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/07/980727081149.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, July 25, 2014

This Week @ NASA, July 25, 2014

NASA (July 25, 2014) Apollo 11 celebration, Next Giant Leap anticipation, ISS astronauts appear in the House and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space to Ground: Coming and Going

Space to Ground: Coming and Going

NASA (July 25, 2014) One station cargo ship leaves, another arrives, aquatic research and commercial spinoffs. Questions or comments? Use #spacetoground to talk to us. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
How A Solar Flare Could Have Wrecked Earth's Electronics

How A Solar Flare Could Have Wrecked Earth's Electronics

Newsy (July 25, 2014) Researchers say if Earth had been a week earlier in its orbit around the sun, it would have taken a direct hit from a 2012 coronal mass ejection. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins