Red Cocoon Harbours Young Stars

On Earth, cocoons are associated with new life. There are “cocoons” in space too, but, rather than protecting pupae as they transform into moths, they are the birthplaces of new stars.

The red cloud seen in this image, taken with the EFOSC2 instrument on ESO’s New Technology Telescope, is a perfect example of one of these star-forming regions. This is a view of a cloud called RCW 88, which is located about ten thousand light-years away and is about nine light-years across. It is not made of silk, like a moth’s cocoon, but of glowing hydrogen gas that surrounds the recently formed stars. The new stars form from clouds of this hydrogen gas as they collapse under their own gravity. Some of the more developed stars, already shining brightly, can even be seen peering through the cloud.

These hot young stars are very energetic and emit large amounts of ultraviolet radiation, which strips the electrons from the hydrogen atoms in the cloud, leaving the positively charged nuclei — protons. As the electrons are recaptured by the protons, they can emit H-alpha light, which has a characteristic red glow.

Observing the sky through an H-alpha filter is the easiest way for astronomers to find these star-forming regions. A dedicated H-alpha filter was one of the four filters used to produce this image.

Credit:

ESO

About the Image

Id:potw1231a
Type:Observation
Release date:30 July 2012, 10:00
Size:937 x 914 px

About the Object

Name:RCW 88
Type:• Milky Way : Nebula : Type : Star Formation
• X - Nebulae
Distance:10000 light years
Constellation:Circinus

Image Formats

JPEG grande
402.4 KB
Screensize JPEG
324.2 KB

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Coordinates

Position (RA):15 7 7.89
Position (Dec):-57° 48' 18.28"
Field of view:3.76 x 3.67 arcminutes
Orientation:North is 0.0° left of vertical

Colours & filters

BandTelescope
Optical
B
New Technology Telescope
EFOSC2
Optical
V
New Technology Telescope
EFOSC2
Optical
R
New Technology Telescope
EFOSC2
Optical
H-alpha
New Technology Telescope
EFOSC2

 

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