Most of the massive stars in the universe were originated in enormous star clusters. These clusters are the building blocks of galaxies, but their formation from dense molecular clouds remains obscure.
Now, astronomers have created a stunning image showing celestial fireworks in star cluster G286.21+0.17 that is located in the Carina region of our galaxy, about 8000 light-years away. The cluster was caught in the act of formation.
Astronomers created a multi-wavelength mosaic made out of more than 750 individual radio observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and nine infrared images from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
The telescope observed the motions of turbulent gas falling into the cluster, forming dense cores that ultimately create individual stars.
Yu Cheng of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, said, “This image shows stars in various stages of formation within this single cluster.”
co-author Jonathan Tan of Chalmers University in Sweden and the University of Virginia and principal investigator of the project. “We see competing forces in action: gravity and turbulence from the cloud on one side, and stellar winds and radiation pressure from the young stars on the other. This process sculpts the region. It is amazing to think that our own Sun and planets were once part of such a cosmic dance.”
“The phenomenal resolution and sensitivity of ALMA are evident in this stunning image of star formation,” said Joe Pesce, NSF Program Officer for NRAO/ALMA. “Combined with the Hubble Space Telescope data, we can see the power of multiwavelength observations to help us understand these fundamental universal processes.”
- “Gas Kinematics of the Massive Protocluster G286.21+0.17 Revealed by ALMA”, Yu Cheng et al., The Astrophysical Journal. DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/ab879f