Featured Image: A Birthplace for Massive Stars


The image above (click for the full view) is a false-color, three-wavelength infrared look at an enormous ionized cloud in which new, large stars are just beginning to form. When young, massive stars are first born within a cloud of gas and dust, they eventually become hot enough to ionize a bubble of gas around them. When stars form near each other, as in a massive cluster, the individual bubbles can combine, producing large ionized regions known as giant H II regions. In a new survey, scientists are using the FORCAST instrument on the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) to map out all of the Milky Way giant H II regions in the mid-infrared, in order to better understand the earliest stages of massive and clustered star formation. W51A, shown above in two FORCAST wavelengths (20 µm shown in blue, 37 µm in green) and one Herschel (70 µm, shown in red), is one of the largest and brightest giant H II regions in our galaxy, and one of the first regions observed as part of the survey. A recent publication by SOFIA scientists Wanggi Lim and James De Buizer details what we’ve learned so far; check out the article below for more information, and keep an eye on AAS Nova for more on SOFIA science soon!


“Surveying the Giant H ii Regions of the Milky Way with SOFIA. I. W51A,” Wanggi Lim and James M. De Buizer 2019 ApJ 873 51. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/ab0288

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