Just like The Beatles' song, the latest Hubble image shows a sky with diamonds, shining brightly. The “diamonds” are the hot young stars from Trumpler 14, a stellar cluster located 8,000 light-years from Earth.
The cluster is part of the Carina Nebula, one of the largest diffuse (thin) nebulae in our sky and home to some of the brightest stars in the Milky Way. Trumpler 14 is the youngest star cluster in the nebula, having formed less than a half a million years ago, and one of the youngest ever discovered. It’s very active and is undergoing a phenomenal phase of star formation.
The cluster is 6 light-years in diameter and it contains about 2,000 stars; by comparison, the closest star to the Sun is 4.5 light-years away. Most of the stars that have formed are bright O and A type star, hot and massive stars that will shine brightly and die quickly. Trumpler 14 hosts one of the highest concentrations of massive, luminous stars in our galaxy.
There are several remarkable stars in the system, such as HD 93129Aa, the brightest star in the photo. It’s 95 times its mass and 1.5 million times more luminous than the Sun, making it one of the most luminous stellar objects in the Milky Way.
Another impressive star is MJ 218, which is moving through the cluster at 97 kilometers (60 miles) per second, carving cavities through the gas of the nebula as it moves. The movement is not the only phenomenon that is messing around with the gas. Hot stars emit a large amount of high energy particles, which produce stellar winds that sculpt the clouds in the nebula.
The stellar inhabitants of Trumpler 14 will continue to shine for another few million years, until they will undergo supernova explosions and die. The gas expelled will induce new star formation until, in a few million years, the cluster will dissipate.
This colour-composite image of the Carina Nebula with the open star cluster Trumpler 14 marked with a red circle. ESO