Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The not so bad Badlands

Eastward Ho!

For the last two days I navigated a route towards the Galaxy's trailing direction and crossed the Orion Spur Badlands, which are not much more than a band of Brown Dwarfs and T Tauri-type stars stretching on for what must be forever. My first destination was the NGC 3532 Open Cluster in the Carina Complex (dubbed the 'Black Arrow Cluster' for some reason) but after having to re-route several times just in order to get to a stellar filling station I just switched my goal to 'Get the heck out of here!'

Yes! Red means no fuel...

The Badlands aren't just bad, however. There are many interesting places to see and quite some giant stars to bump into as well and NGC 3532 lies nestled in these supposedly bad lands as well. It is supposed to be one of the earliest star clusters that was observed with Earth's first and ancient spaceborne telescopes at all so I figured it might still be worth a visit, despite all those Brwon Dwarfs prowling on the way.

Ah! As an aside, I urgently suggest to use your 'View by Stellar Class' filter on the Galaxy Map from time to time, since it facilitates a general overview of your surroundings AND provides you with info on the more reclusive types of phenomena as well, like Wolf-Rayet Stars and White Dwarfs. Do it every 100 LY or somesuch and you'll get the picture.

Speaking about pictures, there's some info to be shared if you want to venture into that region; and what makes it better than having a peek preview of what's out there?

Beta Muscae – Explorers will find a Black Hole and a Neutron Star here.

HR 4499 – We have a G-type Supergiant with nearly 37 Solar radii being orbited by a companion star (which is not unusual). For those of you unfamiliar with stellar dimensions, just imagine Earth being here on its regular orbit and then take a look from an imagined El Capitan summit in Yosemite National Park. 

Amazing, is it not?

245 G. Carinae – A B-type subgiant, where apparently hydrogen fusion stopped already, and it's being orbited by a Neutron Star, bearing witness, that a star has died here in the past already. 'Soon' it will be the main star's turn...

HD 102773 – The most obvious thing here are two Black Holes, hungrily sucking the lifeblood from this star system. The strong gravitational lens effect of the Holes is very impressive and one might think there's only destructive hostility to be found here. However, there is life on the Gas Giant orbiting one of the numerous Y-type Brown Dwarfs. Considering these and the system's B-type main star one can only wonder what kind of water-based life can exist here. Due to the apparent heavy radiation and solar winds impairing the magnetic field of the Gas Giant it is to be suspected that it's some kind of radioplankton deriving its energy from molecular ionization rocesses. But I'm an Explorer, not a Xenobiologist...

HD 303310 – An M-type Supergiant at 33 Solar radii. The star can be viewed as one of the representatives of Giant-class stars in the NGC 3532 Cluster. Have a look around and you can glimpse quite a few of them!

Upsilon Carinae – Woops! Giant Star Madness! This system is awesome: Two A-type Supergiants in a close orbit of only 2,300 LS. Luckily, my approach vector didn't involve getting 'sandwiched' between the two. But still they are some heavy dudes, one having a radius of 77.5 Solar radii and the other even tops this at a whooping 218 Solar radii. You have to look from a viewpoint on an imagined Earth orbiting Sol at 500 LS to get the picture.

Right? Imagine the night skyline of New York or Dubai against the backdrop of these two stellar monsters...

HD 92072 – There are two Neutron Stars to be found here orbiting an F-type Bright Giant. Quite a prize, to be sure, but in picture terms pretty unremarkable, to be honest.

Passing HD 92072 we are approaching the rim of the NGC 3532 Open Cluster. Of course, it was not a thorough survey of the entire cluster. There are at least 150 stars directly associated with it and there may be more jewels on the left and right. But that will be another journey, someday.

Time to move on. There is still much distance to be covered and I plan to pay NGC 3114 a visit, another Open Cluster en route to the Eta Carinae Nebula.

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