Stellar clusters are born in cold and dusty molecular clouds and the youngest clusters are embedded to various degrees in dusty dark molecular material. Such embedded clusters can be considered protocluster systems. The most deeply buried examples are so heavily obscured by dust that they are only visible at infrared wavelengths. These embedded protoclusters constitute the nearest laboratories for direct astronomical investigation of the physical processes of cluster formation and early evolution. I review the present state of empirical knowledge concerning embedded cluster systems and discuss the implications for understanding their formation and subsequent evolution to produce bound stellar clusters.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series A
- Pub Date:
- January 2010
- Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies;
- Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics
- 18 pages, 7 figures. To appear as invited review article in a special issue of the Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. A: Ch. 2 "Star clusters as tracers of galactic star-formation histories" (ed. R. de Grijs). Fully peer reviewed. LaTeX, requires rspublic.cls style file