Westerlund 2 is an obscured compact young star cluster (perhaps even a super star cluster) in the Milky Way, with an estimated age of about one or two million years. It contains some of the hottest, brightest, and most massive stars known. The cluster resides inside a stellar breeding ground known as Gum 29, located 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina. It is half a degree from the naked eye Cepheid variable V399 Carinae.
The cluster Westerlund 2 and its surroundings
Credit: Hubble Space Telescope
|Observation data (J2000 epoch)|
|Right ascension||10h 23m 58.1s|
|Declination||−57° 45′ 49″|
|Apparent magnitude (V)||10.5|
|Notable features||Contains some of the hottest, brightest, and most massive stars.|
|Other designations||ESO 127-18, VDBH 95|
The cluster contains at least a dozen early O stars, of which at least three are eclipsing binaries. All are hotter than 38,000 K and more luminous than 230,000 L☉. There are around 20 further O class stars in the cluster, all main sequence objects implying a very young age for the cluster.
Several Wolf–Rayet stars are found in the vicinity of Westerlund 2, although not in the central core. WR20a, a binary consisting of two WR stars, and the single stars WR20aa, WR20b, and WR20c are all thought to be members of the cluster, although possibly now runaway members. All five Wolf Rayets are extremely young massive objects with OIf*/WN spectral types, amongst the most luminous stars in the galaxy. This composite spectral type indicates young very massive hydrogen-burning stars that are just starting to convect nitrogen and helium to the surface and develop denser stellar winds so that they show the emission lines of a Wolf-Rayet star. WR21a, itself a massive binary, lies in the same direction but is unlikely to be a member of Westerlund 2.
Hubble 25th Anniversary ImageEdit
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- "Hubble Space Telescope Celebrates 25 Years of Unveiling the Universe". NASA. 23 April 2015.
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- Bengt Westerlund (1 March 1961). "A Heavily Reddened Cluster in Ara". Astronomical Journal. 70: 57. Bibcode:1961AJ.....66T..57W. doi:10.1086/108585.
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