A star cluster once thought to be part of the spectacular Orion Nebula is actually a separate celestial entity parked in front of the nebula, a new study reveals.
Scientists using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii found that the star cluster NGC 1980 is a distinct, massive bunch of stars in front of the Orion nebula, which at a range of 1,500 light-years is Earth’s closest known star factory. The cluster is huddled unevenly around the star iota Ori at the southern tip of the sword in the famed Orion constellation.
The star cluster is a slightly older sibling of the Trapezium cluster at the center of the Orion Nebula, the researchers say. And the findings suggest a cosmic structure that astronomers have been calling the Orion Nebula Cluster is actually a complicated mix of these two star clusters.
“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,” study researcher João Alves, of the University of Vienna, said in a statement.
Alves and his colleagues combined observations of the Orion nebula by the MegaCam imager on the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope with past studies using ground-based and space observatories to make the discovery.