The brilliant tapestry of young stars flaring to life resembles a glittering fireworks display in this Hubble Space Telescope image. The sparkling centerpiece of this fireworks show is a giant cluster of thousands of stars called Westerlund 2. The cluster resides in a raucous stellar breeding ground known as Gum 29, located 20,000 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Carina. Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 pierced through the dusty veil shrouding the stellar nursery in near-infrared light, giving astronomers a clear view of the nebula and the dense concentration of stars in the central cluster. The cluster measures between six light-years and 13 light-years across. Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI) and the Westerlund 2 Science Team Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope are finding that planets have a tough time forming in the rough-and-tumble central region of the massive, crowded star cluster Westerlund 2. Located 20,000 light-years away, Westerlund 2 is a unique laboratory to study stellar evolutionary processes because it’s relatively nearby, quite young, and contains a large stellar population.
A three-year Hubble study of stars in Westerlund 2 revealed that the precursors to planet-forming disks encircling stars near the cluster’s center […]
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