Author(s): , , ,
Institution(s): 1. Open University, 2. Universidad de Alicante, 3. University of Sheffield
Westerlund 1 is in all likelihood the most massive young cluster in the Milky Way, with a mass on the order of 105 Msol. We have been observing its massive star population for ten years, measuring radial velocity changes for a substantial fraction of its OB stars and evolved supergiants. The properties of the evolved population are entirely consisting with a single burst of star formation, in excellent agreement with the results of studies based on the lower-mass population.
Here we will present two new studies of the cluster: 1) A direct measurement of its average radial velocity and velocity dispersion based on individual measurements for several dozen stars with constant radial velocity and 2) A search for massive stars in its immediate neighbourhood using multi-object spectroscopy.
The results of these two studies show that Westerlund 1 is decidedly subvirial and has a systemic radial velocity significantly different from that of nearby gas, which was assumed to provide a dynamical distance by previous authors. Moreover, the dynamical distance is inconsistent with the properties of the high-mass stellar population. In addition, we find that the cluster is completely isolated, with hardly any massive star in its vicinity that could be associated in terms of distance modulus or radial velocity. The cluster halo does not extend much further than five parsec away from the centre. All these properties are very unusual among starburst clusters in the Local Universe, which tend to form in the context of large star-forming regions.
Westerlund 1 is thus the best example we have of a starburst cluster formed monolithically.