Hubble pierces through the dusty veil enshrouding this sparkling stellar nursery

Devdiscourse News Desk | California | Updated: 25-11-2022 23:15 IST | Created: 25-11-2022 23:06 IST
Hubble pierces through the dusty veil enshrouding this sparkling stellar nursery
Image credit: NASA, ESA, Antonella Nota (ESA, STScI), Hubble Heritage Project (STScI, AURA), Westerlund 2 Science Team.

The Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) onboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope pierced dust around this stellar nursery to reveal the dense concentration of stars in the central cluster.

Westerlund 2 is a giant cluster of young stars - about one to two million years old - that resides in a raucous stellar breeding ground known as Gum 29, located about 20,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Carina. The cluster measures between 6 light-years and 13 light-years across and contains some of our Milky Way galaxy's hottest, brightest, and most massive stars.

In the above image, the red dots seen throughout the landscape are newly forming stars still wrapped in their gas-and-dust cocoons while the brilliant blue stars scattered throughout the image are mostly foreground stars. The image's central region blends visible-light data taken by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) with near-infrared exposures taken by the Wide Field Camera 3.

The Hubble observations show that lower-mass stars near the cluster's core do not have the large, dense clouds of dust that eventually could become planets in just a few million years. According to NASA, the absence of planet-forming clouds around stars near the center is mainly due to their bully neighbors: bright, giant stars, some of which weigh up to 80 times the Sun's mass. Their blistering ultraviolet (UV) light and hurricane-like stellar winds of charged particles blowtorch disks around neighboring lower-mass stars, dispersing the giant dust clouds.

This massive star cluster will also be an excellent laboratory for follow-up observations with NASA's new and most powerful space telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope.

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