Single stars rarely impress. But when you have a ton of them as you do here, it’s hard not to be mesmerized.
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, made with data taken in 2005-2006 with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys, features the star cluster Trumpler 14. One of the largest gatherings of hot, massive and bright stars in the Milky Way, this cluster houses some of the most luminous stars in our entire galaxy and is about 8,000 light years away.
It’s one of about 1,100 open clusters found within the Milky Way. Many more are believed to be out there. And at 500,000 years old - a small fraction of the Pleiades open cluster’s age of 115 million years - Trumpler 14 is one of the youngest of the youngest clusters.
Astronomers estimate that around 2,000 stars reside within Trumpler 14, ranging in size from less than one tenth to up to several tens of times the mass of the Sun. The most prominent star in Trumpler 14, and the brightest star in this image, is the supergiant HD 93129Aa.
These stars are rapidly working their way through their vast supplies of hydrogen, and have only a few million years of life left before they meet a dramatic demise and explode as supernovae.
Beyond the stars, there is a peculiar arc-shaped cloud visible at the very bottom of this image - suspected of being the winds surging out into space as a result of the stars flinging out high-speed particles from their surface.
This feature is thought to be a bow shock created by the wind flowing from the nearby star Trumpler 14 MJ 218. Astronomers have observed this star to be moving through space at some 350,000 kilometers per hour, sculpting the surrounding clumps of gas and dust as it does so.