Press Release

Mystery Solved: High-Energy Fireworks Linked to Massive Star Cluster

By SpaceRef Editor
January 9, 2006
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Call it the Bermuda Triangle of our Milky Way Galaxy: a tiny patch of sky that has been known for years to be the source of the mysterious blasts of X-rays and gamma rays. Now, a team of astronomers, led by Don Figer of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., has solved the mystery by identifying one of the most massive star clusters in the galaxy. The little-known cluster, which has not been catalogued, is about 20 times more massive than typical star clusters in our galaxy, and appears to be the source of the powerful outbursts.

Supporting evidence for the hefty weight of this cluster is the presence of 14 red supergiants, hefty stars that have reached the end of their lives. They bloat up to about 100 times their normal size before exploding as supernovae. This image shows the star-studded region surrounding the massive star cluster. The bluish cluster is inside the white box. A close-up of the cluster can be seen in the inset photo.

For images and additional information about this research on the Web, visit: http://hubblesite.org/news/2006/03.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. The Institute is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., Washington.

SpaceRef staff editor.