Scientists have captured a diverging shock wave bubble generated by a stellar wind in a cloud of gas, and also estimated the number of physical parameters of the object under study – the Westerlund 2 star cluster.
Most of the data from which detailed images were obtained were collected using the SOFIA flying infrared observatory. Recall that the stratospheric infrared observatory SOFIA (from the English. Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) is a joint project of Germany and the United States in the field of space research. The American agency NASA and the German Center for Aerospace Research are partners.
This observatory, created on the basis of a Boeing 747 and equipped with an infrared reflector telescope, made its first flight in 2010. Observations at an altitude of 12 to 14 kilometers make it possible to obtain results close to the level of space observatories. The flying laboratory is used, in particular, to study the birth and death of stars, the formation of stellar systems, galactic nebulae and black holes. About 160 research flights are carried out annually.
Scientists have analyzed the RCW 49 nebula. Astronomers have paid particular attention to radio emission in the entire wavelength range – from weak radio emission to high-energy gamma rays.
Using data from SOFIA, which was observing the Westerlund 2 cluster (part of RCW 49), scientists have collected a very clear image in which the “stellar nursery” can be clearly seen. This is the region of outer space with active star formation, which can be compared to a “boiling cauldron.”