Detection of a large massive circumstellar disk around a high-mass young stellar object in the Carina Nebula

In our deep near-IR imaging survey of the Carina Nebula obtained with HAWK-I at the ESO VLT we serendipitously discovered an optically invisible infrared source with very interesting morphology. The image above is a three color composite of our J- (blue), H- (green), and Ks-band (red) images. Whereas the object was detected as an apparently point-like source in earlier infrared observations, only the superb image quality (FWHM ~ 0.5 arcsec) of our HAWK-I images could reveal, for the first time, the peculiar structure of the object. It consists of a very red point-like central source that is surrounded by a roughly spherical nebula, which is intersected by a remarkable dark lane through the center. The dark lane is interpreted as the shadow of a circumstellar disk seen nearly edge-on. Its diameter corresponds to 5500 AU. We constructed the spectral energy distribution of the object from 1 to 870 micrometer and performed a detailed radiative transfer modeling of the spectral energy distribution and the source morphology. Our modeling shows that the central object is highly luminous and thus must be a massive young stellar object, most likely in the range 10-15 Msun. The circumstellar disk has a mass of about 2 Msun. This infrared source in Carina is thus one of the most massive young stellar objects for which a circumstellar disk has been detected so far. The size and mass of the disk are very large compared to the corresponding values found for most other similar objects.

Our analysis of this object is published in:
Detection of a large massive circumstellar disk around a high-mass young stellar object in the Carina Nebula,
Th. Preibisch, T. Ratzka, T. Gehring, H. Ohlendorf, H. Zinnecker, R.R. King, M.J. McCaughrean, J.R. Lewis, Astronomy & Astrophysics, 530, A40 (2011) preprint

The two figures below show optical and infrared images of the location and the surroundings of the disk object. The left frame is an optical image (extracted from the ESO photo release 1031) of the central part of the Carina Nebula; the white box marks the area shown in our near-infrared HAWK-I image on the right.

Follow these links to get more information about the Carina Project of the Young Stars and Star Formation Group at Munich Observatory.

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