Embedded clusters are stellar clusters that are partially or fully
embedded in interstellar gas and dust within molecular clouds. They
consist of extremely young, recently formed or forming stars.
Because they are immersed in significant amounts of interstellar
dust they are typically invisible at optical wavelengths. They are
best detected and studied in the infrared part of the
electromagnetic spectrum. These systems are important laboratories
for the study of star formation and early stellar evolution. It is
thought that most stars (and planetary systems) that are born in the
Milky Way are born in embedded clusters. These clusters are also
the precursors of the beautiful open clusters that inhabit the disk
of our home galaxy. However, embedded clusters
suffer a high infant mortality rate. Only a small fraction of them
survive their emergence from a molecular cloud to ultimately end up as visible
open clusters such as the famous Pleiades or Hyades. Investigation
of embedded clusters can provide key knowledge leading to a better
understanding of a number of fundamental problems in astrophysics.
These include the origin of stellar masses and the origin and
evolution of protoplanetary disks, the sites of planet formation.
Charles Lada, Phil Myers, August Muench
Thomas Robitaille, Achim Tappe, Jan Forbrich
On-going collaborators, previously at CfA
Paula Teixeira, Jill Rathborne, Carlos Roman Zuniga, Lori Allen,
Elizabeth Lada, Joao Alves
Near-infrared (JHK) image of the famous embedded cluster
known as the Trapezium cluster.
This cluster is immersed within the Great Orion Nebula which
itself appears to the unaided eye as the middle "star" in the
sword of the winter constellation of Orion the Hunter.
This infrared image was obtained with the SOFI
camera on the European Southern Observatory's
New Technology Telescope in the J (1.25 micron),
H (1.65 micron) and Ks (2.16 micron) bands by Joao Alves,
Charles Lada and August Muench (Muench et al.
2002, Astrophysical Journal vol 573, pg 366).