A trio of massive, young star clusters found embedded in a star cloud may shed light on the formation of super-star clusters and globular clusters.
Lower right: a blue image of the spiral galaxy M101 from the Second Palomar Observatory Sky Survey. The box marks the location of NGC 5461.Lower left: A false color image of NGC 5461 made from images taken with the Hubble Space Telescope Wide-Field Planetary Camera 2 using filters F547M, F675W, and F656N (displayed in blue, green, and red, respectively). Young stars and clusters will appear predominantly blue, while the ionized interstellar gas appears red. Credits: NASA, Y.-H. Chu and R. Chen (University of Illinois), and K. Johnson (University of Virginia).
Upper left: A close-up of the core of NGC 5461 taken with the Hubble Space Telescope Advanced Camera for Surveys using the F435W filter to show the clusters and surrounding star cloud.
Credits: NASA, K.D. Kuntz (University of Maryland Baltimore County).
The discovery, made with images taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, is being presented today by You-Hua Chu and Rosie Chen of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Kelsey Johnson of the University of Virginia to the American Astronomical Society meeting in San Diego. This finding indicates that super-star clusters may be formed by coalescence of smaller clusters.
The tightly packed group of clusters was found in the core of the active star formation region NGC 5461, within an arm of the giant spiral galaxy M101. This galaxy is located about 23 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major (the Big Dipper).
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