Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hubble Spies Massive Star Clusters Near Galactic Core

Date:
September 17, 1999
Source:
Space Telescope Science Institute
Summary:
Penetrating 25,000 light-years of obscuring dust and myriad stars, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has provided the clearest view yet of a pair of the largest young clusters of stars inside our Milky Way galaxy.

Related Articles



Don Figer
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD
(Phone: 410-338-4377)
(E-mail: [email protected])

Penetrating 25,000 light-years of obscuring dust and myriad stars,NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has provided the clearest view yet of a pair of the largest young clusters of stars inside our Milky Way galaxy.

Located less than 100 light-years from the very center of the Galaxy, these giant clusters have a remarkable excess of massive stars and offer new clues as to how such monumental clusters form.

The Hubble images reinforce the emerging view that the galactic core is a unique place in the Galaxy, where conditions under which stars form are completely different from elsewhere in the Galaxy. The core is a site of ongoing violent star formation, as clouds of molecular hydrogen laced with dust zip around the center of our galaxy like wayward comets. A fireworks show of star birth ignites when the clouds collide.

Called the Arches and Quintuplet clusters, they are 2 and 4 million years old, respectively. The older cluster is more dispersed, and it has stars on the verge of blowing up as supernovae, such as the Pistol Star. The Pistol Star is the brightest star in the Galaxy and was also imaged by Hubble in 1997. Both clusters are destined to be ripped apart in just a few million years by gravitational tidal forces in the Galaxy's core. But in the brief time they are around, they shine more brightly than any other star cluster in the Galaxy.

Having an equivalent mass greater than 10,000 stars like our sun, the monster clusters are 10 times heavier (or more massive) than typical young star clusters scattered throughout our Milky Way. The more compact Arches cluster is so dense, over 100,000 of its stars would fill a spherical region in space whose radius is the distance between the Sun and its nearest neighbor, the star AlphaCentauri, 4.3 light-years away.

Only 1 out of every 10,000,000 stars in the Galaxy is as luminous as the bright Arches cluster stars. This suggests that conditions are so extreme at the hot and dynamic hub of our galaxy, massive stars are favored to form. At least a dozen of the stars weigh about 100 times more than our sun.

Both clusters might have formed when two giant clouds, containing dust and molecular hydrogen, had a head-on-collision. This precipitated the birth of thousands of stars. However, warm interstellar temperatures, powerful magnetic fields, and turbulence inside the interstellar gas may have inhibited smaller clumps of hydrogen from falling together to create many stars lower in mass than our sun.

The observations were made by Don Figer of the Space Telescope Science Institute, using Hubble's NICMOS infrared camera. The results will be published in the November 10 issue of The Astrophysical Journal. Figer's co-investigators are Sungsoo S. Kim (University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and the Korea Advanced Institute of Space Science and Technology, Korea), Mark Morris (UCLA), Eugene Serabyn (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena), R. Michael Rich and Ian S. McLean (UCLA).

Figer next plans to analyze data obtained with a new near-infrared spectrometer, which he helped build for the Keck telescope. The analysis will help determine just how quickly the Arches cluster will evaporate due to tidal forces. Hubble's successor, the Next Generation Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2008, will be able to clearly see the fainter stars in the cluster's core, giving astronomers better insight into star-forming conditions in the heart of our galaxy and into whether conditions there allow stars like our sun to form.

The Space Telescope Science Institute is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. for NASA, under contract with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency.

- end -

NOTE TO EDITORS: Image files are available on the Internet at:http://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/pr/1999/30 or via links inhttp://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/latest.html andhttp://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/pictures.html

Higher resolution digital versions (300 dpi JPEG and TIFF) of the release photo are available at:http://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/pr/1999/30/pr-photos.html andhttp://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/pr/1999/30/extra-photos.html


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. "Hubble Spies Massive Star Clusters Near Galactic Core." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 September 1999. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/09/990915172928.htm>.
Space Telescope Science Institute. (1999, September 17). Hubble Spies Massive Star Clusters Near Galactic Core. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/09/990915172928.htm
Space Telescope Science Institute. "Hubble Spies Massive Star Clusters Near Galactic Core." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/09/990915172928.htm (accessed December 17, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) NASA's Curiosity rover detected methane on Mars and organic compounds on the surface, but it doesn't quite prove there was life ... yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Evidence of Life on Mars? NASA Rover Finds Methane, Organic Chemicals

Evidence of Life on Mars? NASA Rover Finds Methane, Organic Chemicals

Reuters - US Online Video (Dec. 16, 2014) NASA's Mars Curiosity rover finds methane in the Martian atmosphere and organic chemicals in the planet's soil, the latest hint that Mars was once suitable for microbial life. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Geminids Meteor Shower Lights Up Skies in China

Geminids Meteor Shower Lights Up Skies in China

AFP (Dec. 16, 2014) The Geminids meteor shower lights up the skies over the Changbai Mountains in northeast China. Duration: 01:03 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Defense Satellite Launches from California

Raw: Defense Satellite Launches from California

AP (Dec. 13, 2014) A U.S. defense satellite launched from California's central coast on Friday after weather delays caused by a major storm that drenched the state. (Dec. 13) Video provided by AP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

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