November 1 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.

2022 November 1

This image, taken by astronomers using the US Department of Energy-fabricated Dark Energy Camera on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, a Program of NSF’s NOIRLab, captures the star-forming nebula NGC 6357, which is located 8000 light-years away in the direction of the constellation Scorpius. This image reveals bright, young stars surrounded by billowing clouds of dust and gas inside NGC 6357, which is also known as the Lobster Nebula.

NGC 6357: The Lobster Nebula

Image Credit: CTIO/NOIRLab/DOE/NSF/AURA; Processing: T. A. Rector (U. Alaska Anchorage/NSF’s NOIRLab), J. Miller (Gemini Obs./NSF’s NOIRLab), M. Zamani & D. de Martin (NSF’s NOIRLab)

Explanation: Why is the Lobster Nebula forming some of the most massive stars known? No one is yet sure. Cataloged as NGC 6357, the Lobster Nebula houses the open star cluster Pismis 24 near its center — a home to unusually bright and massive stars. The overall red glow near the inner star forming region results from the emission of ionized hydrogen gas. The surrounding nebula, featured here, holds a complex tapestry of gas, dark dust, stars still forming, and newly born stars. The intricate patterns are caused by complex interactions between interstellar windsradiation pressuresmagnetic fields, and gravity. The image was taken with DOE‘s Dark Energy Camera on the 4-meter Blanco Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. NGC 6357 spans about 400 light years and lies about 8,000 light years away toward the constellation of the Scorpion.