The dense star cluster RCW 38 glistens about 5500 light years away in the direction of the constellation Vela (the Sails). RCW 38 is an 'embedded' cluster, in that the nascent cloud of dust and gas still envelops its stars. There, young, titanic stars bombard fledgling suns and planets with powerful winds and large amount of light, helped in their devastating task by short-lived, massive stars that explode as supernovae. In some cases, this energetic onslaught cooks away the matter that may eventually form new planetary systems. Scientists think that our own Solar System emerged from such a dramatic environment
The dense star cluster RCW 38 glistens about 5500 light years away in the direction of the constellation Vela (the Sails). RCW 38 is an 'embedded' cluster, in that the nascent cloud of dust and gas still envelops its stars. There, young, titanic stars bombard fledgling suns and planets with powerful winds and large amount of light, helped in their devastating task by short-lived, massive stars that explode as supernovae. In some cases, this energetic onslaught cooks away the matter that may eventually form new planetary systems. Scientists think that our own Solar System emerged from such a dramatic environment. (c) ESO
Astronomy
New NASA missions to investigate how Mars turned hostile — Maybe because it appears as a speck of blood in the sky, the planet Mars was named after the Roman god of war. From the point of view of life as we know it, that's appropriate. The…
NASA's Hubble confirms that galaxies are the ultimate recyclers — New observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope are expanding astronomers' understanding of the ways in which galaxies continuously recycle immense volumes of hydrogen gas and heavy…
Frozen comet had a watery past, University of Arizona scientists find — For the first time, scientists have found convincing evidence for the presence of liquid water in a comet, shattering the current paradigm that comets never get warm enough to melt…
Sugar-grain sized meteorites rocked the climates of early Earth and Mars — Bombardments of 'micro-meteorites' on Earth and Mars four billion years ago may have caused the planets' climates to cool dramatically, hampering their ability to support life, according…
Astrophysicist: White dwarfs could be fertile ground for other Earths — Planet hunters have found hundreds of planets outside the solar system in the last decade, though it is unclear whether even one might be habitable. But it could be that the best place…
Integral spots matter a millisecond from doom — ESA's Integral gamma-ray observatory has spotted extremely hot matter just a millisecond before it plunges into the oblivion of a black hole. But is it really doomed? These unique observations…
MESSENGER spacecraft to swing into orbit around Mercury — At 8:45 p.m. EDT on March 17, the MESSENGER spacecraft will execute a 15-minute manoeuvre that will place it into orbit around Mercury, making it the first craft ever to do so, and…
Baby stars born to 'napping' parents — Cardiff University astronomers believe that a young star's long 'napping' could trigger the formation of a second generation of smaller stars and planets orbiting around it…
Oldest objects in solar system indicate a turbulent beginning — Scientists have found that calcium, aluminium-rich inclusions (CAIs), some of the oldest objects in the solar system, formed far away from our sun and then later fell back into the…
Oxygen isotope analysis tells of the wandering life of a dust grain 4.5 billion years ago — Scientists have performed a micro-probe analysis of the core and outer layers of a pea-sized piece of a meteorite some 4.57 billion years old to reconstruct the history of its formation,…
Where am I? > Home > News > Astronomy

A look into the hellish cradles of suns and solar systems

Science Centric | 19 August 2009 15:40 GMT
Printable version A clip for your blog or website E-mail the story to a friend
Bookmark or share the story on your social network Vote for this article Decrease text size Increase text size
DON'T MISS —
Jules Verne ATV launch approaching
Jules Verne ATV launch approaching — After the successful launch of ESA's Columbus laboratory aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis on Thursday (7 February), it is now…
Light echoes whisper the distance to a star
Light echoes whisper the distance to a star — Taking advantage of the presence of light echoes, a team of astronomers have used an ESO telescope to measure, at the 1%…
More Astronomy

The dense star cluster RCW 38 glistens about 5500 light years away in the direction of the constellation Vela (the Sails). Like the Orion Nebula Cluster, RCW 38 is an 'embedded cluster,' in that the nascent cloud of dust and gas still envelops its stars. Astronomers have determined that most stars, including the low mass, reddish ones that outnumber all others in the Universe, originate in these matter-rich locations. Accordingly, embedded clusters provide scientists with a living laboratory in which to explore the mechanisms of star and planetary formation.

'By looking at star clusters like RCW 38, we can learn a great deal about the origins of our Solar System and others, as well as those stars and planets that have yet to come,' said Kim DeRose, first author of the new study that appears in the Astronomical Journal. DeRose did her work on RCW 38 while an undergraduate student at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, USA.

Using the NACO adaptive optics instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope the astronomers obtained the sharpest image yet of RCW 38. They focused on a small area in the centre of the cluster that surrounds the massive star IRS2, which glows in the searing, white-blue range, the hottest surface colour and temperatures possible for stars. These dramatic observations revealed that IRS2 is actually not one, but two stars - a binary system consisting of twin scorching stars, separated by about 500 times the Earth - Sun distance.

In the NACO image, the astronomers found a handful of protostars - the faintly luminous precursors to fully realised stars - and dozens of other candidate stars that have eked out an existence here despite the powerful ultraviolet light radiated by IRS2. Some of these gestating stars may, however, not get past the protostar stage. IRS2's strong radiation energises and disperses the material that might otherwise collapse into new stars, or that has settled into so-called protoplanetary discs around developing stars. In the course of several million years, the surviving discs may give rise to the planets, moons and comets that make up planetary systems like our own.

As if intense ultraviolet rays were not enough, crowded stellar nurseries like RCW 38 also subject their brood to frequent supernovae, as giant stars explode at the ends of their lives. These explosions scatter material throughout nearby space, including rare isotopes - exotic forms of chemical elements that are created in these dying stars. This ejected material ends up in the next generation of stars that form nearby. As these isotopes have been detected in our Sun, scientists have concluded that the Sun formed in a cluster like RCW 38, rather than in a more rural portion of the Milky Way.

'Overall, the details of astronomical objects that adaptive optics reveals are critical in understanding how new stars and planets form in complex, chaotic regions like RCW 38,' says co-author Dieter Nuernberger.

Source: ESO


Leave a comment
The details you provide on this page [e-mail address] will not be used to send unsolicited e-mail, and will not be supplied to a third party! Please note that we can not promise to give everyone a response. Comments are fully moderated. Once approved they will be posted within 24 hours.
Expand the form to leave a comment

RSS FEEDS, NEWSLETTER
Find the topic you want. Science Centric offers several RSS feeds for the News section.

Or subscribe for our Newsletter, a free e-mail publication. It is published practically every day.

New guest at ESA's test centre: The Herschel telescopeNew guest at ESA's test centre: The Herschel telescope

— ESA's test centre is buzzing with activity and anticipation as it welcomes its latest guest. The gigantic telescope of ESA's space-based infrared observatory, Herschel,…

Europe's Columbus laboratory leaves EarthEurope's Columbus laboratory leaves Earth

— Columbus was onboard NASA's Space Shuttle Atlantis when it lifted off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida at 19:45 GMT yesterday. For this one-way…

NASA's Deep Impact begins hunt for alien worldsNASA's Deep Impact begins hunt for alien worlds

— NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft is aiming its largest telescope at five stars in a search for alien (exosolar) planets as it enters its extended mission, called Epoxi.…

Hubble spies NGC 1132Hubble spies NGC 1132

— The elliptical galaxy NGC 1132 reveals the final result of what may have been a group of galaxies that merged together in the recent past. Another possibility is…

Popular tags in Astronomy: Cassini · galaxy · Hubble · Mars