RG Research: Embedded Clusters

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.


Tyler Bourke, 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

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).


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