The Arches Cluster


Hidden behind a veil of interstellar dust is the densest cluster of stars in our galaxy, the Arches Cluster. Within a span of two light-years, there are some 2,000 stars, including as many as 150 stars that are close to the maximum theoretical limit of mass, beyond which a star will quickly explode into a supernova, then collapse into a Black Hole.


The Arches Cluster cannot be seen with a normal optical telescope, because of the vast clouds of dust obscuring the view, but with infrared sensors, enough information has been collected by Hubble and other, ground-based telescopes to create this artistic depiction of the cluster. It is located a mere 100 light-years from the center of our galaxy, represented by the red blotch at lower right.


The Arches Cluster is so named for the glowing arch of hydrogen filaments at upper left in this rendering, illuminated by the intense energy being generated by the massive stars. Each of the 150 largest stars emits several million times as much energy as our sun, bringing the temperature in the cluster region to a very uncomfortable 63 Million degrees.



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