Infrared images of M17

Charles J. Lada, D. L. DePoy, K. M. Merrill, Ian Gatley

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We have used a 256 × 256 near-infrared camera at NOAO to image a large portion of the M17 star formation complex. We constructed a mosaic image of total size 9′ × 9′ in each of three infrared colors - J, H, and K. The observations enable us to determine the size and extent of the obscured cluster of stars which excites the powerful H II region and heats the luminous dust in the adjacent molecular cloud. More than 100 OB stars are found in a clustering several parsecs in diameter within an obscured portion of the H II region. The K luminosity function of this cluster differs significantly from that of the field stars and has the form expected from the Salpeter initial mass function. The present level of star formation activity in the adjacent molecular cloud M17 SW is found to be considerably lower than that which produced the OB cluster in the H H region. Most of the cluster members are found to have infrared colors which are not consistent with those of purely reddened stellar photospheres. These stars that display infrared excesses may be surrounded by circumstellar disks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)533-539
Number of pages7
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 20 1991
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Infrared: sources
  • Nebulae: H II regions
  • Nebulae: individual (M17)


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