Giant celestial loops of gas and dust arch over a stellar nursery in this image from the European Southern Observatory.
Explore the star-forming region called NGC 3582. What stories and images do you see in this nebula? Leave a note below.
Resembling solar prominences, the giant loops are thought to be the expanding edges of material blown off after giant stars exploded as supernovae. Stars that are much larger and heavier than our Sun live fast lives. They burn through their hydrogen fuel within only a few million years. When the pressure of burning can no longer keep up with the gravity pulling from within the star, the star collapses suddenly. This is the end of the inevitable and the star explodes. So much energy is released in this instant that the star can easily outshine an entire galaxy for a short period of time.
Deep within the cloud, the death of these massive stars provided material for new stars to form. Intense ultraviolet radiation from these new stars excites hydrogen atoms within the star cloud and cause it to glow. Astronomers have uncovered at least 33 massive stars within this cloud. NGC 3582 is part of a much larger star-making region in the Milky Way Galaxy called RCW 57. British astronomer John Herschel first described the complex jumble of glowing gas and dark dust in 1834. Through his telescope, he saw several bright nebulous patches.
As you explore the image, watch for dark globs of material. These inky black blobs are called Bok globules and may be cocoons of new stars.
NGC 3582 lies about 6,000 light-years from Earth toward the southern constellation of Carina, the Keel of the ship Argo from the Greek myth about Jason and the Argonauts. Astronomers at the ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile took this image.