The Great Nebula in Carina (NGC 3372) is the best target to study in detail the process of violent massive star formation and the resulting feedback effects of cloud dispersal and triggered star formation. While the population of massive stars is rather well studied, the associated low-mass stellar population was largely unknown up to now. The near-infrared study in this paper builds on the results of the Chandra Carina Complex Project, that detected 14,368 X-ray sources in the 1.4 deg2 survey region, an automatic source classification study that classified 10,714 of these X-ray sources as very likely young stars in Carina, and an analysis of the clustering properties of the X-ray-selected Carina members. In order to determine physical properties of the X-ray-selected stars, most of which were previously unstudied, we used HAWK-I at the ESO Very Large Telescope to conduct a very deep near-IR survey with subarcsecond angular resolution, covering an area of about 1280 arcmin 2. The HAWK-I images reveal more than 600,000 individual infrared sources, whereby objects as faint as J 23, H 22, and K s 21 are detected at signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) ≥3. While less than half of the Chandra X-ray sources have counterparts in the Two Micron All Sky Survey catalog, the 5mag deeper HAWK-I data reveal infrared counterparts to 6636 (=88.8%) of the 7472 Chandra X-ray sources in the HAWK-I field. We analyze near-infrared color-color and color-magnitude diagrams to derive information about the extinctions, infrared excesses (as tracers for circumstellar disks), ages, and masses of the X-ray-selected objects. The near-infrared properties agree well with the results of the automatic X-ray source classification, showing that the remaining contamination in the X-ray-selected sample of Carina members is very low (≲7%). The shape of the K-band luminosity function of the X-ray-selected Carina members agrees well with that derived for the Orion Nebula Cluster, suggesting that, down to the X-ray detection limit around 0.5-1 M Ȯ, the shape of the initial mass function (IMF) in Carina is consistent with that in Orion (and thus the field IMF). The fraction of stars with near-infrared excesses is rather small, ≲10%, but shows considerable variations between individual parts of the complex. The distribution of extinctions for the diskless stars ranges from 1.6mag to 6.2mag (central 80th percentile), clearly showing a considerable range of differential extinction between individual stars in the complex.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science