This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image features the star cluster Trumpler 14, one of the largest gatherings of hot, massive, and bright stars in the Milky Way.

NASA & ESA, Jesús Maíz Apellániz (Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia)

Previously, Trumpler 14 was observed by ESO’s Very Large Telescope in 1994. The resulting photo is shown below.

Trumpler 14
A Young Star Cluster

Around 1100 open clusters have been discovered within the Milky Way, although many more are thought to exist. Trumpler 14 is one of these, located some 8000 light-years away towards the center of the Carina Nebula. At a mere 500,000 years old, it’s actually the youngest cluster within the nebula. It’s also the most populous, and seems to be forming stars at an incredible rate. 

Astronomers estimate that around 2000 stars reside within Trumpler 14, ranging in size from less than one tenth to up to several tens of times the mass of the Sun. The most prominent star in Trumpler 14 is the supergiant HD 93129Aa, one of the hottest stars in our entire galaxy, and the brightest star in the image.

Making Waves

These stars are quickly burning through their hydrogen, and have only a few million years of life left before they explode as supernovae. Before this happens, though, the stars are making a huge impact on their surrounding environments.

As the stars fling out high-speed particles from their surfaces, strong winds surge out into space. These winds collide with the surrounding material, causing shock waves that heat the gas to millions of degrees and trigger intense bursts of X-rays. These stellar winds also kickstart the formation of new stars by carving out cavities in nearby clouds of gas and dust. One such arc-shaped cloud is visible at the bottom of the image. 

Specifically, the arc is thought to be a result of the wind flowing from the nearby star Trumpler 14 MJ 218. This star is quick. It moves through space at some 350,000 kilometers per hour, sculpting the surrounding clumps of gas and dust as it does so.

As with any young stars, this cluster could give us new insight into the star formation process. We’ll be excited to see how enhanced telescopic technology impacts the scene in another 12 years.


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