Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Born in beauty: proplyds in the Orion Nebula

15.12.2009
A collection of 30 never-before-released images of embryonic planetary systems in the Orion Nebula are the highlight of the longest single Hubble Space Telescope project ever dedicated to the topic of star and planet formation.

Also known as proplyds, or protoplanetary discs, these modest blobs surrounding baby stars are shedding light on the mechanism behind planet formation. Only the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, with its high resolution and sensitivity, can take such detailed pictures of circumstellar discs at optical wavelengths.

Looking like a graceful watercolour painting, the Orion Nebula is one of the most photogenic objects in space and one of the Hubble Space Telescope's favourite targets. As newborn stars emerge from the nebula's mixture of gas and dust, protoplanetary discs, also known as proplyds, form around them: the centre of the spinning disc heats up and becomes a new star, but remnants around the outskirts of the disc attract other bits of dust and clump together. Proplyds are thought to be young planetary systems in the making. In an ambitious survey of the familiar nebula using Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), researchers have discovered 42 protoplanetary discs.

Visible to the naked eye, the Orion Nebula has been known since ancient times, but was first described in the early 17th century by the French astronomer Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc — who is given credit for discovering it. At 1500 light-years away, the nebula, also known as Messier 42, is the closest star-forming region to Earth with stars massive enough to heat up the surrounding gas, setting it ablaze with colour, and making the region stand out to stargazers.

Within the awe-inspiring, gaseous folds of Orion, researchers have identified two different types of discs around young and forming stars: those that lie close to the brightest star in the cluster (Theta 1 Orionis C) and those farther away from it. This bright star heats up the gas in nearby discs, causing them to shine brightly. Discs that are farther away do not receive enough energetic radiation from the star to heat up the gas and so they can only be detected as dark silhouettes against the background of the bright nebula, as the dust that surrounds these discs absorbs background visible light. By studying these silhouetted discs, astronomers are better able to characterize the properties of the dust grains that are thought to bind together and possibly form planets like our own.

The brighter discs are indicated by a glowing cusp in the excited material and facing the bright star, but which we see at a random orientation within the nebula, so some appear edge on, and others face on, for instance. Other interesting features enhance the look of these captivating objects, such as emerging jets of matter and shock waves. The dramatic shock waves are formed when the stellar wind from the nearby massive star collides with the gas in the nebula, sculpting boomerang shapes or arrows or even, in the case of 181-825, a space jellyfish!

It is relatively rare to see visible images of proplyds, but the high resolution and sensitivity of Hubble and the Orion Nebula’s proximity to Earth allow for precise views of these potential planetary systems.

This proplyd atlas is the first scientific outcome from the HST Treasury Program on the Orion Nebula. Treasury Programs are carried out to allow scientists to conduct comprehensive studies over longer periods since time on the in-demand Hubble Space Telescope is strictly allocated. High resolution imaging of protoplanetary discs is an example of a science discovery that has led to better technology and is one of the main science cases for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), one of the largest ground-based astronomy projects of the next decade. ALMA will observe the dust at longer wavelengths, in emission (instead of in absorption as we see it at optical wavelengths) with an angular resolution up to 10 times better than that of Hubble.

Notes for editors:

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

Image credit: NASA, ESA and L. Ricci (ESO)

Contacts:

Colleen Sharkey
Hubble/ESA, Garching, Germany
Tel: +49-89-3200-6306
Cell: +49-015115373591
E-mail: csharkey@eso.org
Luca Ricci
European Southern Observatory
Tel: +49-89-3200-6635
E-mail: lricci@eso.org

Colleen Sharkey | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/html/heic0917.html
http://www.eso.org

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht APEX takes a glimpse into the heart of darkness
25.05.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie

nachricht First chip-scale broadband optical system that can sense molecules in the mid-IR
24.05.2018 | Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>