NOAO < IMAGE GALLERY < G45.45+0.06

Star-forming region G45.45+0.06


About this image

This is a color composite infrared image made using adaptive optics on the Gemini North telescope. Dust obscures this star forming region at optical wavelengths, but it is visible at longer infrared wavelengths (resolution = 0.12 arc seconds FWHM). The composite was formed from three images taken in the H band (1.65 microns, blue), the K band (2.2 microns, green), and a narrow band around Brackett gamma emission (2.17 microns, red). An additional J-band (1.2 micron) image, and the K-band image, are available separately. Other examples of the quality of Gemini North can be found in this image of BD+303639, and this image of NGC6934.

This infrared image taken with the Gemini North telescope reveals, with unprecedented clarity, a distant star forming region in our Milky Way galaxy. The longer wavelengths of infrared light allow astronomers to observe these new stars and explore the processes of star formation.

Most of the stars in this cluster are not seen at visible wavelengths. They are still buried within the large cloud of dust and gas out of which they formed, and the dust absorbs the visible light from the stars while some of the redder or infrared light escapes. The reddest objects are likely to be more deeply buried in the cloud and may still be in the process of accumulating material from the cloud to form a star.

The cluster is designated as G45.45+0.06. The brightest star (at lower left) is in the foreground and is not part of the cluster.

The diffuse infrared light seen in this image is both starlight reflected off dust particles in the cloud and glowing hydrogen gas that is heated by the most massive young stars in the cluster. The three bright stars near the lower right hand corner of the image may be responsible for most of the hydrogen heating and are about 10 times more massive than our sun and more than 100,000 times brighter. Image analysis, combined with follow-up spectroscopy, will enable astronomers to determine such things as the ages of the stars in the cluster, the principal heating sources, and what may cause an interstellar cloud to collapse to form new stars.

This image was obtained with the Gemini North 8-meter telescope on Mauna Kea using the University of Hawaii's infrared camera, QUIRC, with the adaptive optics system called Hokupa'a. Adaptive optics systems use deformable mirrors to correct for the effects of atmospheric distortions of starlight, resulting in significantly sharper images. The United States National Science Foundation has provided financial support to the University of Hawai'i Adaptive Optics Program.

For further information about the Gemini Observatory, please visit the Gemini WWW site.

Photo Credit: Gemini Observatory, US National Science Foundation, and the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy.

More: stars page, Gemini stars page.

Minimum credit line: Gemini Observatory, US National Science Foundation, and the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy.

Downloadable versions:
317 x 200 9 kb color JPEG (on this page)
633 x 400 22 kb color JPEG
971 x 614 39 kb color JPEG
971 x 614 600 kb 8-bit color TIFF
971 x 614 1.7 Mb 24-bit color TIFF
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