A green ring fit for a superhero

Jun 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 .

Explore further: 'Blockbuster' science images

Related Stories

Stars gather in 'downtown' Milky Way

Mar 21, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The region around the center of our Milky Way galaxy glows colorfully in this new version of an image taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

Smoking galaxy revealed

Mar 17, 2006

Where there's smoke, there's fire - even in outer space. A new infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows a burning hot galaxy whose fiery stars appear to be blowing out giant billows of smoky ...

One Star's Life Ends With A Ring

Aug 19, 2004

A new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the shimmering embers of a dying star, and in their midst a strange doughnut-shaped ring. "Spitzer's infrared vision has revealed what could not be seen before - a m ...

Mysterious Ring When Star Dies

Aug 10, 2004

A new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the shimmering embers of a dying star, and in their midst a mysterious doughnut-shaped ring. "Spitzer's infrared vision has revealed what could not be see ...

Spitzer captures infrared rays from a sunflower

Mar 04, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The various spiral arm segments of the Sunflower galaxy, also known as Messier 63, show up vividly in this image taken in infrared light by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Infrared light is ...

Space Image: Disappearing Act

Mar 23, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- This swirling landscape of stars is known as the North America Nebula. In visible light, the region resembles North America, but in this new infrared view from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, ...

Recommended for you

'Blockbuster' science images

Nov 21, 2014

At this point, the blockbuster movie Interstellar has created such a stir that one would almost have to be inside a black hole not to know about it. And while the science fiction thriller may have taken some ...

Estimating the magnetic field of an exoplanet

Nov 20, 2014

Scientists developed a new method which allows to estimate the magnetic field of a distant exoplanet, i.e., a planet, which is located outside the Solar system and orbits a different star. Moreover, they ...

It's filamentary: How galaxies evolve in the cosmic web

Nov 20, 2014

How do galaxies like our Milky Way form, and just how do they evolve? Are galaxies affected by their surrounding environment? An international team of researchers, led by astronomers at the University of ...

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

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

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.