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Friday, August 17, 2012

Hubble spots dual clusters of massive stars on a collision course

Astronomers using data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have spotted two clusters of massive stars that may be in the early stages of merging.

The clusters are 170,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small satellite galaxy to our Milky Way.

What at first was thought to be only one cluster in the core of the massive star-forming region 30 Doradus (also known as the Tarantula Nebula) has been found to be a composite of two clusters that differ in age by about one million years.

The entire 30 Doradus complex has been an active star-forming region for 25 million years, and it is currently unknown how much longer this region can continue creating new stars.

Smaller systems that merge into larger ones could help to explain the origin of some of the largest known star clusters.

Elena Sabbi of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore and her team began looking at the area while searching for runaway stars, fast-moving stars that have been ejected from their stellar nurseries where they first formed. Read More