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SCUTUM

The Shield

scutum--jamieson-1822 (158K)
Scutum - Celestial Atlas by Alexander Jamieson - 1822






Scutum was added to the constellations in 1690, by Johannes Helvelius, in his famous publication Uranographia. Helvelius originally named the constellation Scutum Sobiescian (Shield of Sobieski), in honour of the Polish King who turned back the Ottoman invasion of 1683.

Although Scutum is a small, dim constellation, it lies in a particularly rich area of the Milky Way, full of dense star clouds, including the Scutum Star Cloud, in the center of the constellation, described by the famous American astronomer E.E. Barnard as "The Gem of the Milky Way". There are also two Messier objects that are good targets for backyard telescopes.

scutum (45K)

In 2006 NASA scientists discovered the source of powerful x-rays and gamma rays eminating from Scutum. Using the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope, they were able to see through the thick dust and optical interference 18,900 light years towards the center of the Milky Way, and found one of the most massive star clusters in the galaxy. The cluster is estimated to contain 20,000 stars, and an unusually high number of rare red supergiants, the kind of stars that end their relatively short lives in a supernova explosion. It is these supernova explosions that are emitting the x-rays and gamma rays. Below is the Spitzer infrared photo, showing the dense x-ray cluster of stars in the center, surrounded by the dark dust, bright nebulae and crowded star fields of the Milky Way.

scutum star field- spitzer-2006-sm (373K)
Region of X-ray Source - Spitzer Infrared Telescope - April, 2004






M11 - The Wild Duck Cluster

m11-wild duck cluster-deep impact-nasa (112K)
M11 - Wild Duck Cluster - NASA's Deep Impact Spacecraft - April, 2005

Exoplanets

So far two stars in Scutum have been found to support planetary systems. Unfortunately, both stars are beyond naked eye visibility, and the planets are gas giants unlikely to support life.


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