Massive stars are of elevated importance in our Universe for several reasons. At the end of their lives, they enrich the interstellar medium with elements essential for life. During their lives, they influence the nurseries in which new stars might form.
Jinzeng Li (Beijing) was employed at the Observatory for two months. He and Michael Smith investigated the consequences of massive star formation in one such region of our Galaxy. They uncovered that massive stars are forming in the Rosette Molecular Complex at a rate way beyond previous expectations. Their infrared data were acquired from an archive from the 2MASS survey. The key was to compare data on stars at different wavelengths to help eliminate the uniformly distributed stars in the foreground and background of the cloud. They found that clusters of embedded stars form in a multi-seeded multi-mode manner and contain some of the most massive stars known in our Galaxy. They also found that stars appear to form in a spreading mode, following a tree-like pattern. The highly successful project continues with Jinzeng Li, who is now back in Beijing.
Stars of high mass are relatively rare, and therefore distant. To understand how they interact and form out of their immediate environments, we first require special observing techniques. Speckle interferometry involves taking hundreds of snapshots and combining them with mathematical techniques. Michael Smith, working with a group at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, has been interpreting images so reduced from the Special Astrophysical Observatory in Russia. Results were presented at the JENAM2005 meeting in Granada, Spain. New observations were proposed by Smith for an observing campaign at the Multiple Mirror Telescope in Arizona and are now ready to be analysed.