In a galaxy near our Milky Way, in a hot dusty cloud filled with molecular gases, young stars are being born. This is another proof that the universe is still expanding, and possibilities of life beyond our galaxy is yet to be discovered.
According to the group of astronomers led by Prof Jean Turner of the University of California, Los Angeles, more than a million infant stars are forming in a massive star cluster (Cloud D) in NGC 5253.
NGC 5253 is a dwarf galaxy that lies within the well known constellation Centaurus and has a supernebula were the star cluster is being formed. Although it has one billion times the luminosity of the sun it is invisible on our sky because hot gases surrounds it.
The galaxy has approximately nine times as much dark matter as visible matter, which is much higher than found in the inner parts of the Milky Way. The Milky Way which is still forming stars is far behind the dwarf galaxy in the number of stars being churned out.
“We are stardust, and this cluster is a factory of stars and soot,” said Jean Turner. “We are seeing the dust that the stars have created. Normally when we look at a star cluster, the stars long ago dispersed all their gas and dust, but in this cluster, we see the dust.”
“I’ve been searching for the gas cloud that is forming the supernebula and its star cluster for years,” she said. “Now we have detected it.”
“The cluster is about 3 million years old, which in astronomical terms, is remarkably young. It is likely to live for more than a billion years.”, she said.
“The Milky Way has not formed gigantic star clusters for billions of years. It is still forming new stars, but not in nearly such large numbers.”, she added.
Some astronomers had believed that such giant star clusters could form only in the early universe. “The Milky Way has gas clouds, but nothing comparable to this galaxy’s Cloud D which houses the enormous star cluster enshrouded in thick gas and dust.”, she said.
How much of a gas cloud gets turned into stars varies in different parts of the universe. In the Milky Way, the rate for gas clouds forming clusters as found in Cloud D is less than 5%.
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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Science journal: http://goo.gl/tPnjZm.