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NGC 3293, open star cluster in Carina

Date created: 1991-04-27

Tags: dust, AAT, cluster


Unlike the Sun, many stars are found in brilliant clusters such as NGC 3293 where they spend their some of lives. At birth, which would have been at much the same time for all the stars in NGC 3293, the cluster would have been shrouded in gas and dust, perhaps like the Rosette nebula.The most massive stars formed are hot and very luminous and quickly disperse the dust and appear here as the brightest blue stars. Because they are so massive, they quickly deplete their supplies of nuclear fuel, hydrogen.

This evolutionary process involves a changing the internal dynamics and cooling, so that the stars become cooler and thus redder. If nothing else happened they would disappear from view as less energy was radiated, but they also swell to gigantic proportions and so remain visible as red supergiant stars. The bright orange star in NGC 3293 is the member of the cluster which has aged fastest and is thus likely to be the most massive. This cluster is in the constellation of Carina at a distance of about 8500 light years. It is about 10 million years old, about the same age as the better-known kappa Crucis cluster, the Jewel Box, NGC 4755.

Photograph made from plates taken in February, 1991.
Top left is NE. Image width is about 13.5 arc min.

Credit: David Malin

© Australian Astronomical Observatory