|Marco Foronda |||Mar 20, 2015 04:36 AM EDT|
(Photo : Jean Turner) The blue background is a Hubble Space Telescope image of galaxy NGC 5253. The white spots are young star clusters. The brightest part of the image is Cloud D.
Astronomers have observed more than a million young stars forming at a phenomenal rate in a dwarf galaxy near the Milky Way.
The star cluster is found within a dusty cloud in the tiny galaxy called NGC 5253, which is part of the Centaurus constellation, said a report published Thursday.
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"[This] cluster is a factory of stars," said UCLA College's physics and astronomy department head Jean Turner.
Prof. Turner is also the lead researcher of the study that started years ago. Now, the team has successfully located the dusty cloud of gases the forming stars were created from.
Normally, when astronomers observe a supernebula, the dust and gases are no longer visible. In this case, they're visible.
"We were stunned," Prof. Turner remarked.
The dusty cloud is in the Cloud D region of the dwarf galaxy. It contains oxygen, carbon and other elements about 15,000 times our Sun's mass. Also, the supernebula is believed to be a billion times more luminous as it contains more than 7,000 of the most luminous stars called "O" stars.
It's hidden by the surrounding gases so it's invisible in normal light, however.
The giant star cluster is estimated to be three million years old, which is young astronomically speaking, Prof. Turner said.
The Milky Way is still forming stars, but not at the same rate as the dwarf galaxy. In fact, our own galaxy hasn't created star clusters in billions of years, according to Prof. Turner.
Some astronomers speculate star clusters only form in a young universe.
After the discovery, astronomers expect a few stars will explode into a supernova, spewing some of the dust and gas into interstellar space. The gas cloud hurled into space has a possibility of forming into clusters of more stars.
At the moment, there's no evidence of a supernova.
The international team first discovered the radio emissions of the giant star cluster in 1996. They are conducting research using the Submillimeter Array with Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics and Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.
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