A new star cluster that was once thought to be part of the Orion Nebula is really a separate celestial entity that happens to be parked in front of the nebula, a new study has shown.
Scientists discovered the distinctly different star cluster using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii, reports Space.com. The new star cluster is called NGC 1980 and is a massive bunch of stars in front of the Orion nebula.
The nebula is the Earth’s closest known star factory at a range of 1,500 light-years. The star cluster is gathered unevenly around iota Ori, the star at the southern top of Orion’s sword in the famous constellation.
Astronomers believe the star cluster is an older sibling of the Trapezium cluster, located at the center of the Orion Nebula. Their findings also suggest that the cosmic structure astronomers have called the Orion Nebula Cluster is really a complicated mix of the two star clusters, notes Red Orbit. Study researcher João Alves, with the University of Vienna, stated:
“For me the most intriguing part is that the older sibling, the iota Ori cluster, is so close to the younger cluster still forming stars inside the Orion nebula.”
“It is hard to see how these new observations fir into any existing theoretical model of cluster formation, and that is exciting because it suggests we might be missing something fundamental. Clusters are very likely the favorite mode of star formation in the Universe, but we are still far from understanding why that is exactly.”
The astronomers used optical, infrared, and mid-infrared data imaging techniques to study the newly identified cluster. These imaging techniques helped them ensure that they only sampled stars in the foreground of the Orion Nebula. They also discovered a small star cluster south of iota Ori that they named L1641W.