Thursday, March 8, 2012

Rather Pretentious Stellar Birth: R136 Shows Star Formation like None Before

Astronomers have never seen anything like it. From the magnificence of the image below, it is easy to assume that this star cluster is no ordinary one (but, was there ever a regular or ordinary stellar cluster!?). The stars that comprise such a one are extremely massive giants, which are proposed to become supernovae in the next million years, yet are situated so close to the earth; everything about the image and its features speak of pretentiousness far beyond the way we know of it today. After all, look at its definition (thanks to Collins English Dictionary): "having or creating a deceptive outer appearance of great worth; ostentatious." Although this image and its contents on the surface may seem like another of Hubble's masterpieces, it too has its own story.

RMC 136 is a unique cluster in the Large Magellanic Cloud, particularity in the 30 Doradus Nebula. The imaging Hubble used to capture this moment in space history was incredible and has benefited astronomers on account of the close proximity the cluster is to our planet. Because the cluster is only 1-2 million light years away, Hubble can resolve each individual star, allowing the study of stellar evolution (how the stars formed) clearer, as this topic is not that well understood so far. Hubble has scored again!

If you would care to view this cluster on your own, it is possible. Although the cluster is approximately 9.5 magnitude (which means a telescope is definitely required in viewing it) it is at these coordinates of RA and Dec: (05h 38m 42.396s, -69° 06′ 03.36″) What is Right Ascension and Declination? [Image Below from Wikisky] The black box below shows the location of the object in the Large Magellanic Cloud.

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