Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The Light and Dark Face of a Star-Forming Nebula

31.03.2010
Today, ESO is unveiling an image of the little known Gum 19, a faint nebula that, in the infrared, appears dark on one half and bright on the other. On one side hot hydrogen gas is illuminated by a supergiant blue star called V391 Velorum.

New star formation is taking place within the ribbon of luminous and dark material that brackets V391 Velorum’s left in this perspective. After many millennia, these fledgling stars, coupled with the explosive demise of V391 Velorum as a supernova, will likely alter Gum 19’s present Janus-like appearance.


Star-forming region Gum 19
PR Image eso1014a

Gum 19 is located in the direction of the constellation Vela (the Sail) at a distance of approximately 22 000 light years. The Gum 19 moniker derives from a 1955 publication by the Australian astrophysicist Colin S. Gum that served as the first significant survey of so-called HII (read “H-two”) regions in the southern sky. HII refers to hydrogen gas that is ionised, or energised to the extent that the hydrogen atoms lose their electrons. Such regions emit light at well-defined wavelengths (or colours), thereby giving these cosmic clouds their characteristic glow. And indeed, much like terrestrial clouds, the shapes and textures of these HII regions change as time passes, though over the course of eons rather than before our eyes. For now, Gum 19 has somewhat of a science fiction-esque, “rip in spacetime” look to it in this image, with a narrow, near-vertical bright region slashing across the nebula. Looking at it, you could possibly see a resemblance to a two-toned angelfish or an arrow with a darkened point.

This new image of the evocative Gum 19 object was captured by an infrared instrument called SOFI, mounted on ESO’s New Technology Telescope (NTT) that operates at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. SOFI stands for Son of ISAAC, after the “father” instrument, ISAAC, that is located at ESO’s Very Large Telescope observatory at Paranal to the north of La Silla. Observing this nebula in the infrared allows astronomers to see through at least parts of the dust.

The furnace that fuels Gum 19’s luminosity is a gigantic, superhot star called V391 Velorum. Shining brightest in the scorching blue range of visible light, V391 Velorum boasts a surface temperature in the vicinity of 30 000 degrees Celsius. This massive star has a temperamental nature, however, and is categorised as a variable star accordingly. V391 Velorum’s brightness can fluctuate suddenly as a result of strong activity that can include ejections of shells of matter, which contribute to Gum 19’s composition and light emissions.

Stars on the grand scale of V391 Velorum do not burn bright for long, and after a relatively short lifetime of about ten million years these titans blow up as supernovae. These explosions, which temporarily rival whole galaxies in their light intensity, blast heated matter in surrounding space, an event that can radically change the colour and shape of its enclosing nebula. As such, V391 Velorum’s death throes may well leave Gum 19 unrecognisable.

Within the neighbourhood of this fitful supergiant, new stars nonetheless continue to grow. HII regions denote sites of active star formation wherein great quantities of gas and dust have begun to collapse under their own gravity. In several million years — a blink of an eye in cosmic time — these shrinking knots of matter will eventually reach the high density at their centres necessary to ignite nuclear fusion. The fresh outpouring of energy and stellar winds from these newborn stars will also modify the gaseous landscape of Gum 19.

More information
ESO, the European Southern Observatory, is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive astronomical observatory. It is supported by 14 countries: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and VISTA, the world’s largest survey telescope. ESO is the European partner of a revolutionary astronomical telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. ESO is currently planning a 42-metre European Extremely Large optical/near-infrared Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.
Contacts
Henri Boffin
ESO ePOD
Garching, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6222
Cell: +49 174 515 43 24
Email: hboffin@eso.org

Henri Boffin | ESO
Further information:
http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1014/

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: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer ISE Pushes World Record for Multicrystalline Silicon Solar Cells to 22.3 Percent

25.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance

25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

An international team of physicists a coherent amplification effect in laser excited dielectrics

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>