Celestial Arches

Credit: Euro­pean South­ern Obser­va­tory (ESO)

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.


S 26-05-2011, 07:01

giant ethe­real space pen­guins bend over their glow­ing egg. or it’s a space camp­fire, flar­ing up against the starry sky.

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