Astronomers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have imaged a giant molecular cloud being shredded by howling stellar winds and searing radiation, exposing a group of towering dust pillars harboring infant stars, according to a University of Colorado at Boulder researcher.
Nathan Smith, a Hubble Fellow and postdoctoral researcher at CU-Boulder’s Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy, said the violent panorama is unfolding in the Carina Nebula, located in the southern Milky Way some 10,000 light years from Earth. The orbiting infrared telescope imaged a new generation of stars in various stages of evolution, several dozen of which now gleam like gems at the heads of huge dust pillars created by the galactic weather conditions.
"Spitzer is providing us with the first snapshot of a molecular cloud being shredded on such a large scale," said Smith. "Stellar winds and blowtorch-like radiation coming off the massive stars are ripping apart the cloud, exposing a new generation of stars at the ends of these pillars."
Nathan Smith | EurekAlert!
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