Young stellar objects and abnormal extinction within M 17
R. Chini 1 and
W.F. Wargau 2
Received 23 December 1996 / Accepted 26 August 1997
The stellar content of M 17 is investigated by photoelectric observations from 1.2 to 4.8 m for 69 stars. Combining these data with previous UBVRI measurements we obtain the following results: i) 32 stars are visible objects on B and V plates reaching to 20.1 and 18.2 mag, respectively; the remaining 37 stars are pure IR sources with mag. ii) In various two-colour-diagrams 18 of the visible stars can uniquely be identified as early type members of the young stellar cluster, suffering between 6 and 18 mag of visual extinction. Their colours suggest a special reddening law within M 17, characterized by . iii) 28 of the new IR sources can also be classified as B-type stars with up to 50 mag of visual extinction. iv) The major result, however, is the discovery of a strong IR excess associated with 20 stars (11 visible + 9 IR objects). Their spectral energy distributions resemble those of five previously detected "cocoon stars " in M 17 and thus qualifies them as Class I sources. The observed luminosity of these new IR excess objects is more than 60 times larger than that found for the classical Class I sources in Ophiuchus. We therefore suggest them to be the high mass counterparts of this early evolutionary stage. They represent the youngest generation of massive early type stars in M 17 still surrounded by relicts of their protostellar clouds. The comparatively low visual extinction of only mag is probably a consequence of the strong radiation field from neighbouring O stars which has partly cleared the region.
The influence of interstellar extinction on the spectral index between 2.2 and 20 m, often used to determine the evolutionary stage of young stellar objects, is discussed. In the case of deeply embedded objects ( mag) and wavelengths below 10 m may be dominated by interstellar extinction rather than circumstellar emission. A reasonable alternative in the absence of data longward of 4.8 m are certain IR-colour relations which provide limits to detect IR-excess objects independent of the amount of extinction. We find empirical colour criteria of the form and/or that may trace Class I objects reliably.
Key words: interstellar medium: dust formation of stars
Send offprint requests to: R. Chini
© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1998
Online publication: November 24, 1997