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Image of the Week – A Picture of Star Formation – 03/04/11

3 Apr 2011, 15:19 UTC
Image of the Week – A Picture of Star Formation – 03/04/11
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Despite having reached the end of its time in operation the data from NASA’s WISE (Wide-field Infrared Explorer) still contains many stunning views of our galaxy. This particular image shows the Rho Ophiuchi star forming cloud complex in stunning detail.
Rho Ophiuchi Cloud Complex as seen by WISE Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
The nebula is glowing as it is being energised and ionised by the harsh ultraviolet light of the stars it is producing.
The red glow in the bottom left of the image is the light from the star Sigma Scorpii, this is reflecting off surrounding gas and dust creating a reflection nebula.
The dark splodges are the densest clouds of dust that are thick enough to block nearly all infra-red light which is why they show up dark in this image.
Young massive stars are being forged within the nebula and their radiation will eventually blow the gas and dust into a diffuse bubble before finally eroding it completely. At a distance of just 130 parsecs (427.26 light years) from the Solar System, the complex is one of the nearest star forming regions to the Earth.
The region’s size and proximity make it a rich hunting ground for the ...

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