The latest image from the Hubble Space Telescope is amazing. Aren’t they all? This time around we get an extraordinary look at Trumpler 14. It’s one of about 1,100 open clusters discovered throughout the Milky Way.
Trumpler 14 sits 8,000 light-years away in the Carina Nebula. And it’s young. Very young, cosmically speaking. Trumpler 14 is just 500,000 years old. Compare that to the age of the famous Pleiades open cluster’s age at 115 million years old.
This open cluster may be young, but it’s making up for lost time by producing stars at a stunning rate. Trumpler 14 is home to one of the highest concentrations of luminous stars in our galaxy. Astronomers believe there are around 2,000 stars clumped together within Trumpler 14. They range in size from one-tenth all the way up to several tens of times the mass of our sun. Clumped together, the stars look incredible. But there is an expiration date on this fantastic display.
Each one of these massive stars is quickly burning through their supply of hydrogen. Once they run out? Game over. After a few million years, the stars explode in one of the most spectacular events in the universe – a supernova.
But before they go supernova, astronomers can already see their effects on the surrounding environment. You see the arc-shaped cloud at the very bottom? (I’ve circled it below)
Astronomers believe this arc-shape was formed by strong stellar winds. The release accompanying the image explains what’s going on.
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 strong stellar winds also carve out cavities in nearby clouds of gas and dust, and kickstart the formation of new stars.
One of Trumpler 14’s 2,000 stars – Trumpler 14 MJ 218 – is believed to be responsible for creating the arc-shaped cloud as it zooms through space at 350,000 kilometers per hour.
The mysterious black object
Something else in the image may have caught your eye.
That appears to be a bok globule. It’s a small (relatively) cloud of very cold gas and dust. Most bok globules tend to be under 100 solar-masses (1 solar mass = our sun). But, it’s what may be inside them that makes them an intriguing target for astronomers – the cores of new stars.
Here’s another image showing the Carina Nebula and where Trumpler 14 is located within it.
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