A green ring fit for a superhero

June 16, 2011 By Whitney Clavin
This glowing emerald nebula seen by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope is reminiscent of the glowing ring wielded by the superhero Green Lantern. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

(PhysOrg.com) -- This glowing emerald nebula seen by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope is reminiscent of the glowing ring wielded by the superhero Green Lantern. In the comic books, the diminutive Guardians of the Planet "Oa" forged his power ring, but astronomers believe rings like this are actually sculpted by the powerful light of giant "O" stars. O stars are the most massive type of star known to exist.

Named RCW 120 by astronomers, this region of hot gas and glowing dust can be found in the murky clouds encircled by the tail of the constellation Scorpius. The green ring of dust is actually glowing in infrared colors that our eyes cannot see, but show up brightly when viewed by Spitzer's . At the center of this ring are a couple of whose intense ultraviolet light carved out the bubble, though they blend in with the other stars when viewed in infrared.

Rings like this are so common in Spitzer's observations that astronomers have even enlisted the help of the public to help find and catalog them all. Anyone interested in joining the search as a citizen scientist can visit "The Milky Way Project," part of the "Zooniverse" of public astronomy projects, at www.milkywayproject.org/ .

The flat plane of our galaxy is located toward the bottom of the picture, and the ring is slightly above the plane. The green haze seen at the bottom of the image is the diffuse glow of dust from the .

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Pyle
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 16, 2011
The green ring of dust is actually glowing in infrared colors
Its infrared green! What does that even mean??? It sure makes a pretty picture though. I wonder if the red part is really red in the visible spectrum and the greened parts are "darker" but enhanced. In any event it makes the whole thing with the title seem a little contrived.
El_Nose
not rated yet Jun 16, 2011
it just means that all those objects that are blue are in normal visible spectrum and would have different colors
Pyle
not rated yet Jun 16, 2011
@EN: Are you sure? Most of the time they mix methods, leaving visible alone and "enhance" by changing spectrums on the other wavelengths and overlaying them on the visible image. Usually they leave infrared red though. But it all depends on what data they have and what the purpose of the image is.

I could probably look up the colorization method if I cared enough, but instead I make lame comments about silly article titles. Anyone care to do the dirty work for this lazy poster?
neiorah
not rated yet Jun 16, 2011
Absolutely beautiful.
yyz
5 / 5 (1) Jun 17, 2011
@Pyle, El_Nose,

From the original NASA-JPL press release(& edited out by PO):

"This is a three-color composite that shows infrared observations from two Spitzer instruments. Blue represents 3.6-micron light and green shows light of 8 microns, both captured by Spitzer's infrared array camera. Red is 24-micron light detected by Spitzer's multiband imaging photometer."

A visible light view of RCW 120 (assembled using broadband red, blue and IR images from the DSS2) can be found here: http://galaxymap....CW%20120

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