The ESA’s infra-red Herschel Observatory has captured a stunning images of dense interstellar filaments of dust and gas.
The images are of three areas of the sky, within the Aquila constellation, near the star Polaris (The Northern Pole Star) and within the Cocoon Nebula also known as IC 5146.
IC5146 Filaments Credits: ESA/Herschel/SPIRE/PACS/D. Arzoumanian (CEA Saclay) for the “Gould Belt survey” Key Programme Consortium.
IC 5146 Credit: SLOOH, Hannah Hutchins
Filaments had previously had somewhat weak detections in other
I-R surveys with Herschel’s being far more detailed. This in turn has allowed astronomers to accurately measure the widths of many different filaments and use this data to make comparisons between them.
Surprisingly the data comparison showed that no matter the length or density of the filaments they all had a broadly similar width. This indicates that the filaments share a common formation process.
Comparing the available observational data with computer models astronomers have concluded that the best explanation for the filaments formation is the shock waves created by supernovae.
All 90 filaments studied in the survey were around 0.3 light years in diameter or 19,000 times the distance from the sun to the Earth.
The shock waves sweep up ...