Hubble Space Telescope discovers two colliding star clusters

Shane McGlaun - Aug 20, 2012
Hubble Space Telescope discovers two colliding star clusters

Last week, NASA announced that astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope discovered two gigantic star clusters that are in the process of merging. According to NASA, the two clusters are about 170,000 light years away from the earth. The clusters are located in the Tarantula Nebula, also known as 30 Doradus.

The clusters are located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is described as a small galaxy orbiting the Milky Way. The colliding star clusters are in a star-forming region of the nebula believed to be about 25 million years old. The scientists say that this particular area first came to prominence because of the large number of so-called "runaway stars" in the area.

A runaway star is a star that moves away from the region where it was born at incredibly high speeds. When scientists were studying the distribution of stars within the nebula, it was discovered that the distribution was off. According to the researchers, the stars should be distributed in a roughly spherical pattern, but instead the stars were distributed in an elongated shape.

The distribution of the stars indicated that gravitational forces were affecting the distribution. These forces are described as similar to those seen on larger scales when two galaxies collide with each other. By studying the area, scientists determined that one of the star clusters is about 1 million years older than the other. The hypothesis is that gravitational interactions between the two star clusters created the runaway stars that the area is known for.

[via Forbes]

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