Spectacular VLT Photos Unveil Mysterious Nebulae
Nebula around the hot star AB7 in the SMC
photographed with the ESO VLT
Quite a few of the most beautiful objects in the Universe are still shrouded in mystery. Even though most of the nebulae of gas and dust in our vicinity are now rather well understood, there are some which continue to puzzle astronomers.
This is the case of a small number of unusual nebulae that appear to be the subject of strong heating - in astronomical terminology, they present an amazingly "high degree of excitation". This is because they contain significant amounts of ions, i.e., atoms that have lost one or more of their electrons. Depending on the atoms involved and the number of electrons lost, this process bears witness to the strength of the radiation or to the impact of energetic particles.
Richard West | alfa
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