The VISA Variables Telescope, located at the European Space Observatory’s Paranal Observatory, used infrared detection technology that allowed the stars, described by astronomers as “tiny and faint objects,” to be seen.
The discovery is a major breakthrough for the VISTA Variables in the Via Lactea (VVV) program, which was established only one year ago.
“This discovery highlights the potential of VISTA and the VVV survey for finding star clusters, especially those hiding in dusty star-forming regions in the Milky Way’s disc. VVV goes much deeper than other surveys,” said the study’s lead author, Jura Borissova said in a statement.
Focusing on known star-forming areas, the team of astronomers used special computer software to remove stars from the foreground, whose glare was preventing the newly discovered stars from being seen.
Stars slightly larger than half the mass of our sun were observed developing in open clusters. More prominent clusters were measures for size, distance and age. Like us on Facebook
“We found that most of the clusters are very small and only have about 10-20 stars,” said Radonstin Kurtev, another astronomer on the discovery team.
“Compared to typical open clusters, these are very faint and compact objects – the dust in front of these clusters makes them appear 10,000 to 100 million times fainter is visible light. It’s no wonder they were hidden.”
Star clusters are the building blocks of galaxies and astronomers look forward to discovering more and learning more about the evolution of galaxies.
Approximately 2,500 open star clusters have been discovered, but astronomers estimate that there could be up to 30,000 clusters hiding within clouds of dust and gas.
“We’ve just started to use more sophisticated automatic software to search for less concentrated and older clusters,” Borissova said.
“I am confident that many more are coming soon.”
A report of the discovery will be published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
“Via Lactea” is Latin for Milky Way.Be the first of thousands of iPosters by sharing your news, views, and analysis.