Molecular clouds toward rcw49 and westerlund 2: evidence for cluster formation triggered by cloud-cloud collision

N. Furukawa*, J. R. Dawson, A. Ohama, A. Kawamura, N. Mizuno, T. Onishi, Y. Fukui

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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We have made CO(J = 2-1) observations toward the H II region RCW 49 and its ionizing source, the rich stellar cluster Westerlund 2, with the NANTEN2 submillimeter telescope. These observations have revealed that two molecular clouds in velocity ranges of -11 to +9 km s-1 and 11 to 21 km s -1, respectively, show remarkably good spatial correlations with the Spitzer IRAC mid-infrared image of RCW 49, as well a velocity structures indicative of localized expansion around the bright central regions and stellar cluster. This strongly suggests that the two clouds are physically associated with RCW 49. We obtain a new kinematic distance estimate to RCW 49 and Wd2 of 5.4+1.1 -1.4 kpc, based on the mean velocity and velocity spread of the associated gas. We argue that the acceleration of the gas by stellar winds from Westerlund 2 is insufficient to explain the entire observed velocity dispersion of the molecular gas, and suggest a scenario in which a collision between the two clouds 4 Myr ago may have triggered the formation of the stellar cluster.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L115-L119
Number of pages5
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2009 The American Astronomical Society. First published in the Astrophysical journal letters, 696(2), L115, 2009, published by IOP Publishing. The original publication is available at Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Hii regions
  • ISM: clouds
  • ISM: individual (RCW 49)
  • Open clusters and associations: individual (Westerlund 2)


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