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Extreme Universe: 300 Solar Mass Star Uncovered July 21, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Extreme Universe, stars.
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A team of astronomers led by Paul Crowther, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Sheffield, has used ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), as well as archival data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, to study two young clusters of stars, NGC 3603 and RMC 136a in detail. NGC 3603 is a cosmic factory where stars form frantically from the nebula’s extended clouds of gas and dust, located 22 000 light-years away from the Sun (eso1005). RMC 136a (more often known as R136) is another cluster of young, massive and hot stars, which is located inside the Tarantula Nebula, in one of our neighbouring galaxies, the Large Magellanic Cloud, 165 000 light-years away (eso0613).

Cluster R136a1 in the Large Magellanic Cloud (Credit ESO

Spectroscopic analyses of hydrogen-rich WN5–6 stars within the young star clusters NGC 3603 and R136 are presented, using archival Hubble Space Telescope and Very Large Telescope spectroscopy, and high spatial resolution near-IR photometry, including Multi- Conjugate Adaptive Optics Demonstrator (MAD) imaging of R136.

Comparisons with stellar models calculated for the main-sequence evolution of 85 – 500 M⊙ accounting for rotation suggest ages of ∼1.5 Myr and initial masses in the range 105 – 170 M⊙ for three systems in NGC 3603, plus 165 – 320 M⊙ for four stars in R136.

Original paper at:

http://www.eso.org/public/archives/releases/sciencepapers/eso1030/eso1030.pdf

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