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Beyond Earthly Skies

An Isolated Giant

18 Oct 2013, 10:00 UTC
An Isolated Giant
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Very massive stars with ~100 times the Sun’s mass are exceedingly rare. It is still not known if such massive stars can form in isolation or only in star clusters. The centre region of the Milky Way galaxy hosts a unique environment where the process of star formation may differ from elsewhere in the galaxy. This makes the Galactic Centre an important test-bed for determining if very massive stars can indeed form in isolation. In the Galactic Centre are 3 very massive star clusters. The central Cluster surrounds the galaxy’s supermassive black hole, while 2 other massive star clusters, the Arches cluster and the Quintuplet cluster, are located no more than ~100 light years away. Figure 1: Artist’s impression of the Arches cluster.Images of the Galactic Centre acquired by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) reveal a number of isolated massive stars located outside of the 3 known massive star clusters. Four scenarios that may explain the origin of these isolated massive stars are that these stars (1) were formed in isolation; (2) were formed within clusters that have already dispersed; (3) were ejected from one of the 3 known massive star clusters; (4) belong to clusters that have yet to ...

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