An open cluster of stars, NGC 3293 (wide field)
AAO image reference AAT 10a.     « Previous || Next »

An open cluster of stars, NGC 3293 in Carina, ngc3293.jpg
Top left is NE. Image width is about 25 arc min
Image and text © 2001-2010, Australian Astronomical Observatory, photograph by David Malin.

Unlike the Sun, many stars are found in brilliant clusters such as NGC 3293 where they spend their lives. At birth, which should have been at much the same time for all the stars in NGC 3293, the most massive stars are hot and very luminous and therefore appear as the brightest blue stars. With time, they deplete their supplies of hydrogen, the nuclear fuel that supplies their radiant energy. The most massive and luminous stars use their reserves first. This is an evolutionary process that involves cooling, so that the stars become redder (and thus less luminous), and they would ordinarily disappear from view. However, their internal rearrangments oblige them to swell to gigantic proportions, increasing the size of their radiating surface, and so they remain visible. The bright orange star in NGC 3293 is the member of the cluster which has aged fastest.

Young clusters such as NGC 3293 are born from dusty gas which is rapidly dispersed by the energy of the young stars. However, in this deep, wide field view, traces of it remain as the red and blue nebulosities in the upper right (NW) corner. This cluster is in the constellation of Constellation of Carina at a distance of about 8500 light years.

Related Images
AAT 10.  An open cluster of stars, NGC 3293
Constellation of Carina (external site)

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Updated by David Malin, 2010, August 1