The earliest stages of massive star formation: near and mid infrared observations

M. S. N. Kumar, C. J. Davis, R. Bachiller

We present new near-IR and mid-IR images of relatively isolated massive star forming regions with a special emphasis on the candidate precursors to ultra-compact HII regions. These images reveal compact, almost circularly symmetric young stellar clusters, dominated by a single luminous massive member. The clusters indicate flattenned structures and dynamically unrelaxed states. In 4 of these young clusters we have discovered a nearly centrally located, prominent dark region visible at 2μm. 10μm images show examples where the dark region is associated with embedded luminous members of the cluster, as well as cases with no central 10μm source. The dark patches without embedded sources could be dense cores surviving inside the (proto?)clusters or left over wreckage from cluster formation. These images support current theoritical simulations of cluster formation.

Astrophysics and Space Science
Volume 287, Page 191
October 2003