W3A Star Cluster

Researchers Captured New Images of Recently Born Cluster of Massive Stars

NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) researchers have captured new images of a recently born cluster of massive stars named W3A. The cluster is seen lurking in the depths of the large gas and dust cloud from which it formed. The larger image shows the overall structure of the W3 region, lying 6,400 light years away in the direction of the constellation Perseus, as seen at near-infrared wavelengths by the Spitzer Space Telescope. The inset image composed of data obtained by SOFIA at mid-infrared wavelengths zooms in on the violent interaction zone around the massive star cluster. The energetic radiation and strong winds from these stars   will  eventually shred  and disperse   their birth cloud, possibly   triggering   the formation of more stars in adjacent clouds. Astronomers using SOFIA aim to better understand the effects the largest stars in the cloud have on their smaller siblings and on the cycle of star birth. The SOFIA observations reveal the presence of some 15 massive stars in various stages of their birth process. Toward the left of the inset image, a small bubble (arrow) has been cleared out of the gas and dust by the most massive star in this cluster. This bubble is surrounded by a dense shell (green) of material in which some of the dust and all of the large molecules have been destroyed. That shell is surrounded by mostly untouched cloud material, traced by the red emission from cooler dust. Astronomers have evidence that the expansion of such bubbles around massive newly born stars acts to compress nearby material and trigger the condensation of more stars. The SOFIA observations were made using the FORCAST instrument (Faint Object Infrared Camera for the SOFIA Telescope; Principal Investigator Terry Herter, Cornell University). The data were analyzed and interpreted by the FORCAST team with Francisco Salgado and Alexander Tielens of the Leiden (Netherlands) Observatory plus SOFIA staff scientist James De Buizer. These data are subjects of papers presented at the 219th American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin, Texas, and papers submitted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.
source:www.nasa.gov