Starshine in Canis Major
It’s impossible to miss the star in this ESO Picture of the Week — beaming proudly from the centre of the frame is the massive multiple star system Tau Canis Majoris, the brightest member of the Tau Canis Majoris Cluster (NGC 2362) in the eponymous constellation of Canis Major (The Great Dog). Tau Canis Majoris aside, the cluster is populated by many young and less attention-seeking stars that are only four or five million years old, all just beginning their cosmic lifetimes.
The Tau Canis Majoris Cluster is an open cluster — a group of stars born from the same molecular cloud. This means that all of the cluster’s inhabitants share a common chemical composition and are loosely bound together by gravity. Having been born together, they make an ideal stellar laboratory to test theories of stellar evolution, the chain of events that leads from a star’s birth in a cool, dense cloud of gas through to its eventual death.
Though the stars in this image were all created at the same time, their various different masses mean they will lead very different lives. As Tau Canis Majoris is one of the most massive and short-lived types of star, it will burn through its nuclear fuel long before its smaller companions, which will keep on shining for billions of years.
This image was created as part of the ESO Cosmic Gems programme, an outreach initiative to produce images of interesting, intriguing or visually attractive objects using ESO telescopes, for the purposes of education and public outreach. The programme makes use of telescope time that cannot be used for science observations. All data collected may also be suitable for scientific purposes, and are made available to astronomers through ESO’s science archive.Credit:
About the Image
|Release date:||18 March 2019, 06:00|
|Size:||1754 x 1777 px|
About the Object
|Name:||NGC 2362, Tau Canis Majoris|
|Type:||Milky Way : Star : Grouping : Cluster : Open|
|Distance:||5000 light years|
|Position (RA):||7 18 40.89|
|Position (Dec):||-24° 57' 58.32"|
|Field of view:||7.37 x 7.47 arcminutes|
|Orientation:||North is -0.0° left of vertical|
Colours & filters
|440 nm||Very Large Telescope|
|557 nm||Very Large Telescope|
|655 nm||Very Large Telescope|