In another incredible image released by ESO, the MPG/ESO 2.2-metertelescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile spots a stellar nursery enclosed in cool cosmic dust clouds. The stellar nursery is currently in the process of emerging from this dust cloud. To date, this is the best image ever taken of this little-known area at optical wavelengths.
The cloud, which is located approximately 600 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Scorpius, is about five light-years across. This image captures members of the cluster finally peeking out beneath their stellar cocoons, where they have resided throughout the first stage of their stellar evolution.
The cloud itself is composed almost entirely of cool interstellar dust, which played a large role in the formation of the cluster buried within. As is typical in star-forming regions, ultraviolet radiation from the stars eventually eats away at the surrounding gas and dust, until the infant stars can be seen at visual wavelengths instead of in infrared.
Furthermore, studying areas such as this is of the utmost importance to astronomers, who think the sun likely formed in an area similar to this one approximately 4 billion years ago. Understanding the role each factor played in the formation of the stars may lead to a better understanding of the conditions under which our parent star was formed.
Sources and further reading:
- “Smoke-Black Space Cloud Hides Baby Stars in Amazing Photo“. Tariq Malik, SPACE.com. 16 January 2013.
- A larger version of this image is available for download here.
- Want to take a tour of Lupus 3? Check this out at SPACE.com.