The implications of recent near-infrared imaging and spectroscopy of the Galactic center stellar cluster are discussed. The central parsec appears to be powered by a cluster of hot, massive stars of which the IRS 16 complex is the central core. In the 1 to 2 micrometer band, the brightest members of this cluster are 10 to 15 HeI/HI emission line stars that can be characterized as approximately 20000 K, helium rich, very luminous supergiants. The He-I/H-I stars can account for a major fraction of the total and Lyman continuum luminosity of the central parsec, but hotter, earlier type stars are probably required in addition to account for the He-continuum. The brightest cool stars in the central parsec are red supergiants, and asymptotic giant branch stars. Two scenarios for the evolution of the central stellar core are presented: one involves a small star formation burst years ago that was the result of substantial prior gas influx into the core. In this scenario the Galactic center is presently in a short-lived, post-main sequence 'wind phase'. The second scenario involves the buildup of massive stars by sequential merging of lower mass stars. The intense mass loss from the hot stars probably affects strongly the gas dynamics in the central 0.1 pc and may prevent gas to accelerate onto the possible central hole.
Max-Planck-Inst. fuer Extraterrestrische Physik, MPE Contributions to the Proceedings of the Conference on Nuclei of Normal Galaxies: Lessons Learned From the Galactic Center; 8 p