Surveying the Giant H II Regions of the Milky Way with SOFIA. I. W51A

March 2019 • 2019ApJ...873...51L

Authors • Lim, Wanggi • De Buizer, James M.

Abstract • We discuss the first results from our mid-infrared (MIR) imaging survey of Milky Way Giant H II (GH II) regions with our detailed analysis of W51A, which is one of the largest GH II regions in our Galaxy. We used the FORCAST instrument on the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) to obtain 20 and 37 μm images of the central 10‧ × 20‧ area, which encompasses both of the G49.5-0.4 and G49.4-0.3 subregions. Based on these new data, and in conjunction with previous multiwavelength observations, we conjecture on the physical nature of several individual sources and subcomponents within W51A. We find that extinction seems to play an important role in the observed structures we see in the near- to MIR, both globally and locally. We used the SOFIA photometry combined with Spitzer-IRAC and Herschel-PACS photometry data to construct spectral energy distributions (SEDs) of the subcomponents and point sources detected in the SOFIA images. We fit those SEDs with young stellar object models and found 41 sources that are likely to be massive young stellar objects, many of which are identified as such in this work for the first time. Close to half of the massive young stellar objects do not have detectable radio continuum emission at centimeter wavelengths, implying a very young state of formation. We derived luminosity-to-mass ratio and virial parameters of the extended radio subregions of W51A to estimate their relative ages.


IPAC Authors

Wanggi Lim

Assistant Scientist