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Star Formation in the W49A Molecular Cloud: Birth of a Massive Star Cluster

By N. L. Homeier and J. Alves


Abstract. The W49A star-forming region is embedded in a 106M ⊙ molecular cloud, one of the most massive in our Galaxy. It has been long known as one of the most luminous radio H II regions, containing 30 − 40 compact and ultracompact H II regions and several hot cores. We have detected a previously unknown massive star cluster (Cluster 1) embedded in the W49 molecular cloud using JHKs observations with SOFI+NTT. We find that the inferred mass of Cluster 1 is 1 − 2 × 104 M⊙, and is 2 pc in projected distance from the largest grouping of ultracompact H II regions (including the Welch ring). We use the extensive line-of-sight extinction to isolate a population of objects associated with W49A, and use this sample to obtain a mass function. The slope of the derived mass function for objects associated with W49A, −1.3 ± 0.3, is consistent with a Salpeter slope. About 3 pc away from the main star-forming complexes seen in near-infrared and radio observations is an ∼ 80 M ⊙ star ionizing a compact H II region (object CC). We obtained adaptive optics imaging with NACO on the VLT of the 1.5 pc surrounding this object to search investigate the stellar initial mass function in the vicinity of a massive star. On the global molecular cloud scale in W49, massive star formation apparently did not proceed in a single concentrated burst, but in small groups, or subclusters. 1

Year: 2004
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