Cloak and dust

Credit: ESO/Sergey Stepanenko

A face seems to peer from behind a cloak in this image of NGC 6729 from the European Southern Observatory.

Explore the folds of gas and dust of NGC 6729 in this image. What stories or pictures do you see? Leave a note below.

NGC 6729 is one of the closest star-making factories to Earth. The region about 400 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Corona Australis, is filled with the ingredients to make stars, such as hydrogen gas and thick dust clouds. Baby stars are invisible in this image. They are hidden from view by the inky black clouds in the upper left. But if we could look at the cloud in infrared light, astronomers would be able to detect their warm glow. What we can see is how these young and active stars affect their surroundings. High-speed jets of material slam into the surrounding calm gas and create shockwaves. These shockwaves excite hydrogen molecules inside the cloud and cause them to glow like a neon sign. Zoom in close and look for faint arcs within the cloud. Astronomers call these arcs Herbig-Haro objects.

NGC 6729 was discovered by Johann Friedrich Julius Schmidt during his observations at Athen Observatory in 1861. German astronomer Albert Marth independently rediscovered the object in Malta in 1864. Astronomers used the ESO’s Very Large Telescope FORS1 instrument in Chile to capture this image.

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