The Nebula Beginning. The Nebula Beginning. The Nebula Beginning. M17. The Nebula Beginning. M1 – The Orion Nebula. The Nebula Beginning. The Nebula Beginning. STELLAR "EGGS" EMERGE FROM MOLECULAR CLOUD (Star-Birth Clouds in M16)
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M1 – The Orion Nebula
STELLAR "EGGS" EMERGE FROM MOLECULAR CLOUD (Star-Birth Clouds in M16)
This eerie, dark structure, resembling an imaginary sea serpent's head, is a column of cool molecular hydrogen gas (two atoms of hydrogen in each molecule) and dust that is an incubator for new stars. The stars are embedded inside finger-like protrusions extending from the top of the nebula. Each "fingertip" is somewhat larger than our own solar system.
The pillar is slowly eroding away by the ultraviolet light from nearby hot stars, a process called "photoevaporation". As it does, small globules of especially dense gas buried within the cloud is uncovered. These globules have been dubbed "EGGs" -- an acronym for "Evaporating Gaseous Globules". The shadows of the EGGs protect gas behind them, resulting in the finger-like structures at the top of the cloud.
Forming inside at least some of the EGGs are embryonic stars -- stars that abruptly stop growing when the EGGs are uncovered and they are separated from the larger reservoir of gas from which they were drawing mass. Eventually the stars emerge, as the EGGs themselves succumb to photoevaporation.
The stellar EGGS are found, appropriately enough, in the "Eagle Nebula" (also called M16 -- the 16th object in Charles Messier's 18th century catalog of "fuzzy" permanent objects in the sky), a nearby star-forming region 7,000 light-years away in the constellation Serpens.
The picture was taken on April 1, 1995 with the Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. The color image is constructed from three separate images taken in the light of emission from different types of atoms. Red shows emission from singly-ionized sulfur atoms. Green shows emission from hydrogen. Blue shows light emitted by doubly- ionized oxygen atoms.
Credit: Jeff Hester and Paul Scowen (Arizona State University), and NASA
GIANT STARBIRTH REGION IN NEIGHBORING GALAXY
This is a Hubble Space Telescope image (right) of a vast nebula called NGC 604, which lies in the neighboring spiral galaxy M33, located 2.7 million light-years away in the constellation Triangulum.
This is a site where new stars are being born in a spiral arm of the galaxy. Though such nebulae are common in galaxies, this one is particularly large, nearly 1,500 light-years across. The nebula is so vast it is easily seen in ground-based telescopic images (left).
At the heart of NGC 604 are over 200 hot stars, much more massive than our Sun (15 to 60 solar masses). They heat the gaseous walls of the nebula making the gas flouresce. Their light also highlights the nebula's three-dimensional shape, like a lantern in a cavern. By studying the physical structure of a giant nebula, astronomers may determine how clusters of massive stars affect the evolution of the interstellar medium of the galaxy. The nebula also yields clues to its star formation history and will improve understanding of the starburst process when a galaxy undergoes a "firestorm" of star formation.
The image was taken on January 17, 1995 with Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. Separate exposures were taken in different colors of light to study the physical properties of the hot gas (17,000 degrees Fahrenheit, 10,000 degrees Kelvin).
Credit: Hui Yang (University of Illinois), Jeff J. Hester (University of Arizona) and NASA.