Sunday, July 19, 2009

Stellar family in crowded, violent neighbourhood proves to be surprisingly normal

Stellar family in crowded, violent neighbourhood proves to be surprisingly normal (6/4/09)
Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers have obtained one of the sharpest views ever of the Arches Cluster — an extraordinary dense cluster of young stars near the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way. Despite the extreme conditions astronomers were surprised to find the same proportions of low- and high-mass young stars in the cluster as are found in more tranquil locations in our Milky Way.

The massive Arches Cluster is a rather peculiar star cluster. It is located 25 000 light-years away towards the constellation of Sagittarius (the Archer), and contains about a thousand young, massive stars, less than 2.5 million years old [1]. It is an ideal laboratory to study how massive stars are born in extreme conditions as it is close to the centre of our Milky Way, where it experiences huge opposing forces from the stars, gas and the supermassive black hole that reside there. The Arches Cluster is ten times heavier than typical young star clusters scattered throughout our Milky Way and is enriched with chemical elements heavier than helium.




Arches Cluster – click for 1280×1165 image


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