Hubble in the sky with diamonds

Many of Trumpler 14's stars are energy powerhouses, and their high-energy particles are having faraway effects.
By Brooks Hays  |  Jan. 21, 2016 at 3:43 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- A new image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope offers a shimmering view of star cluster Trumpler 14.

The stars seen sparkling in the new image are some of the brightest found in the Milky Way galaxy. Astronomers believe some 70 percent of all stars in the universe are found in clusters, and Trumpler 14 is one of the largest, hottest and brightest clusters in our galaxy.

And it's not as if Trumpler 14 doesn't have much competition. More than 1,100 open clusters have been identified inside the Milky Way, and astronomers believe there are many more yet to be discovered. The cluster is located near the center of the much-studied Carina Nebula, some 8,000 light-years from Earth.

Trumpler 14's size, luminosity and impressive rate of star production may have something to do with its age. At just 500,000 years old, it's one of the more youthful clusters in the Carina Nebula.

Many of Trumpler 14's stars are energy powerhouses. And their high-energy particles are having faraway effects. Stellar winds can be seen pushing up against surrounding gas clouds, carving out pockets.

As stellar particles collide with nearby cosmic material, they can create shock waves. These same shock waves can heat gas clouds to extremely high temperatures, creating intense bursts of X-rays.

A small arc seen in the bottom left region of the Hubble image shows what scientists think is a bow shock, a wave of gas moving out in front of the star known as Trumpler 14 MJ 218.

"Astronomers have observed this star to be moving through space at some 350,000 kilometers per hour, sculpting the surrounding clumps of gas and dust as it does so," researchers explained in a recent press release.

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