Posts Tagged With: Molecular cloud

Astronomy Picture of the Day for Jan. 29th

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 January 29
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Molecular Cloud Barnard 68
Image Credit: FORS Team, 8.2-meter VLT Antu, ESO 

 

Explanation: Where did all the stars go? What used to be considered a hole in the sky is now known to astronomers as a dark molecular cloud. Here, a high concentration of dust and molecular gas absorb practically all the visible light emitted from background stars. The eerily dark surroundings help make the interiors of molecular clouds some of the coldest and most isolated places in the universe. One of the most notable of these dark absorption nebulae is a cloud toward the constellation Ophiuchus known as Barnard 68, pictured above. That no stars are visible in the center indicates that Barnard 68 is relatively nearby, with measurements placing it about 500 light-years away and half a light-year across. It is not known exactly how molecular clouds like Barnard 68 form, but it is known that these clouds are themselves likely places for new stars to form. In fact, Barnard 68 itself has been found likely to collapse and form a new star system. It is possible to look right through the cloud in infrared light.

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NASA Photo of the Day for Jan. 5

 Festival of Lights

Festival of Lights

 

WISE, NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, has a new view of Barnard 3, or IRAS Ring G159.6-18.5, that is awash in bright green and red dust clouds. Interstellar clouds like these are stellar nurseries, where baby stars are being born.
The green ring is made of tiny particles of warm dust whose composition is very similar to smog found here on Earth. The red cloud in the center is most likely made of dust that is more metallic and cooler than the surrounding regions. HD 278942, the bright star in the middle of the red cloud, is so luminous that it is the likely cause of the surrounding ring’s glow. The bright greenish-yellow region left of center is similar to the ring, though more dense. The bluish-white stars scattered throughout are stars located both in front of, and behind, the nebula.

Regions similar to this nebula are found near the band of the Milky Way galaxy in the night sky. This nebulas is slightly off this band, near the boundary between the constellations of Perseus and Taurus, but at a relatively close distance of only about 1,000 light-years, the cloud is a still part of our Milky Way.

The colors used in this image represent specific wavelengths of infrared light. Blue and cyan (blue-green) represent light emitted at wavelengths of 3.4 and 4.6 microns, which is predominantly from stars. Green and red represent light from 12 and 22 microns, respectively, which is mostly emitted by dust.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

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NASA Image of the Day for Jan. 1

 Festival of Lights

Festival of Lights

WISE, NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, has a new view of Barnard 3, or IRAS Ring G159.6-18.5, that is awash in bright green and red dust clouds. Interstellar clouds like these are stellar nurseries, where baby stars are being born.

The green ring is made of tiny particles of warm dust whose composition is very similar to smog found here on Earth. The red cloud in the center is most likely made of dust that is more metallic and cooler than the surrounding regions. HD 278942, the bright star in the middle of the red cloud, is so luminous that it is the likely cause of the surrounding ring’s glow. The bright greenish-yellow region left of center is similar to the ring, though more dense. The bluish-white stars scattered throughout are stars located both in front of, and behind, the nebula.

Regions similar to this nebula are found near the band of the Milky Way galaxy in the night sky. This nebulas is slightly off this band, near the boundary between the constellations of Perseus and Taurus, but at a relatively close distance of only about 1,000 light-years, the cloud is a still part of our Milky Way.

The colors used in this image represent specific wavelengths of infrared light. Blue and cyan (blue-green) represent light emitted at wavelengths of 3.4 and 4.6 microns, which is predominantly from stars. Green and red represent light from 12 and 22 microns, respectively, which is mostly emitted by dust.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

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Astronomy Picture of the Day

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2011 December 8
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Sh2-239: Celestial Impasto
Image Credit & Copyright: Adam Block, Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, University of Arizona 

 

 Explanation: The cosmic brush of star formation composed this alluring mix of dust and dark nebulae. Cataloged as Sh2-239 and LDN 1551, the region lies near the southern end of the Taurus molecular cloud complex some 450 light-years distant. Stretching for nearly 3 light-years, the canvas abounds with signs of embedded young stellar objects driving dynamic outflows into the surrounding medium. Included near the center of the frame, a compact, tell-tale red jet of shocked hydrogen gas is near the position of infrared source IRS5, known to be a system of protostars surrounded by dust disks. Just below it are the broader, brighter wings of HH 102, one of the region’s many Herbig-Haro objects, nebulosities associated with newly born stars. Estimates indicate that the star forming LDN 1551 region contains a total amount of material equivalent to about 50 times the mass of the Sun.

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Astronomy Picture of the Day for November 8th

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2011 November 8

Jumping Sundogs Over Thunderclouds
Image Credit: abrigatti, YouTube 

 

Explanation: What’s happening above those clouds? In the past few years, videos have appeared on the web detailing an unusual but little known phenomenon: rapid light changes over clouds. Upon inspection and contemplation, a leading hypothesis for its cause has now emerged. In sum, this hypothesis holds that a lightning discharge in a thundercloud can temporarily change the electric field above the cloud where charged ice crystals were reflecting sunlight. The new electric field quickly re-orients the geometric crystals to a new orientation that reflects sunlight differently. In other words, a lightning discharge can cause a sundog to jump. Soon, the old electric field may be restored, causing the ice crystals to return to their original orientation. To help this curious phenomenon become better studied, sky enthusiasts with similar jumping or dancing sundog videos are encouraged to share them.

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Astronomy Picture of the Day

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2011 November 1
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will downloadthe highest resolution version available.

The Fairy of Eagle Nebula
Image Credit: The Hubble Heritage Team, (STScI/AURA), ESA, NASA 

Explanation: The dust sculptures of the Eagle Nebula are evaporating. As powerful starlight whittles away these cool cosmic mountains, the statuesque pillars that remain might be imagined as mythical beasts. Pictured above is one of several striking dust pillars of the Eagle Nebula that might be described as a gigantic alien fairy. This fairy, however, is ten light years tall and spews radiation much hotter than common fire. The greater Eagle Nebula, M16, is actually a giant evaporating shell of gas and dust inside of which is a growing cavity filled with a spectacular stellar nursery currently forming an open cluster of stars. The above image in scientifically re-assigned colors was released in 2005 as part of the fifteenth anniversary celebration of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope.

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Astronomy Picture of the Day for October 27th

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2011 October 27
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Young Suns of NGC 7129
Image Credit & Copyright: Johannes Schedler (Panther Observatory)Explanation: Young suns still lie within dusty NGC 7129, some 3,000 light-years away toward the royal constellation Cepheus. While these stars are at a relatively tender age, only a few million years old, it is likely that our own Sun formed in a similar stellar nursery some five billion years ago. Most noticeable in the sharp image are the lovely bluish dust clouds that reflect the youthful starlight. But the compact, deep red crescent shapes are also markers of energetic, young stellar objects. Known as Herbig-Haro objects, their shape and color is characteristic of glowing hydrogen gas shocked by jets streaming away from newborn stars. Paler, extended filaments of redish emission mingling with the bluish clouds are caused by dust grains effectively converting the invisible ultraviolet starlight to visible red light through photoluminesence. Ultimately the natal gas and dust in the region will be dispersed, the stars drifting apart as the loose cluster orbits the center of the Galaxy. At the estimated distance of NGC 7129, this telescopic view spans about 40 light-years.

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Astronomy Picture of the Day

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2011 September 13

Great Orion Nebulae
Image Credit & Copyright: Jesús Vargas (Astrogades) & Maritxu Poyal (Maritxu) 

Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion, also known as M42, is one of the most famous nebulas in the sky. The star forming region’s glowing gas clouds and hot young stars are on the right in this sharp and colorful image that includes the smaller nebula M43 near center and dusty, bluish reflection nebulae NGC 1977 and friends on the left. Located at the edge of an otherwise invisible giant molecular cloud complex, these eye-catching nebulae represent only a small fraction of this galactic neighborhood’s wealth of interstellar material. Within the well-studied stellar nursery, astronomers have also identified what appear to be numerous infant planetary systems. The gorgeous skyscape spans nearly two degrees or about 45 light-years at the Orion Nebula’s estimated distance of 1,500 light-years.

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