Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Massive star cluster found in Milky Way


RIT/STScI astronomer presents at American Astronomical Society meeting

A massive cluster of red supergiants--super-sized stars on the verge of exploding--was recently discovered in the Milky Way by a group of stronomers using infrared technology to penetrate the thick dust that cloaks much of the galaxy.

Only a few hundred such stars are known to exist in the galaxy, with the previous largest collection of them containing only five. These are the biggest stars: a single red supergiant at the center of the solar system would reach the orbit of Jupiter. The 14 together imply a sea of smaller stars in the cluster having a total mass of at least 20,000 solar masses, according to astronomer Don Figer.

"It seems odd that here is a spectacularly bright cluster and that we are only seeing it now," says Figer, formerly at Space Telescope Science Institute and now at Rochester Institute of Technology. "We didn’t have infrared technology until recently and so people are rescanning the whole galaxy."

He adds: "This gives us the richest sample of stars getting ready to explode. We still don’t understand what they do in their last stage."

Figer presented his research at the American Astronomical Society meeting Jan. 9 in Washington, D.C., and participated in the press conference, Milky Way Roundup.

Figer’s finding may poke holes in some massive star formation models, which suggest that conditions are no longer favorable for this type of massive cluster formation. Ancient globular clusters, containing even more stars, were thought to have been born only very early, at the time of the formation of the galaxy.

"But that’s probably not true because we’re starting to see more massive clusters," Figer notes, adding that further infrared observation will probably reveal more examples.

Of further interest to Figer and his colleagues are the X-rays and rare gamma rays that hang over the cluster, located 18,900 light-years from earth. This high-energy fallout follows a star’s destruction, the remnants of which are only energetic for a short time, giving scientists a snapshot in time of these stars at different stages of life.

The NASA-funded, five-year study will focus on 130 potential star clusters altogether, with the cluster of 14 supergiants being the team’s first study.

The study was made possible with the use of a unique spectrograph built by a team led by John MacKenty, also of the STScI. The instrument--containing a tiny matrix of mirrors similar to those in projection televisions, according to Figer--captures spectral data on 100 stars at one time, a novel approach that made the project possible.

Figer and his colleagues will conduct detailed studies of the 14 individual stars using multiple resources, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer telescope.

In addition to Figer, the international team of scientists working on this project include Massimo Robberto and Kester Smith of STScI; Francisco Najarro of the Instituto de Estructura de la Materia in Madrid, Spain; Rolf Kudritzki of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu; and Artemio Herrero of the Unversidad de La Laguna in Tenerife, Spain.

Susan Gawlowicz | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus
20.10.2016 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>