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: Partial solar eclipse over the U.S. on Thursday, Oct. 23

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

Partial solar eclipse over the U.S. on Thursday, Oct. 23

Oct 17, 2014

People in most of the continental United States will be in the shadow of the Moon on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 23, as a partial solar eclipse sweeps across the Earth. For people looking through sun-safe filters, from Los Angeles, ...

A newborn supernova every night

Oct 17, 2014

Thanks to a $9 million grant from the National Science Foundation and matching funds from the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) collaboration, a new camera is being built at Caltech's Palomar Observatory that ...

Scientists build first map of hidden universe

Oct 16, 2014

A team led by astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has created the first three-dimensional map of the 'adolescent' Universe, just 3 billion years after the Big Bang. This map, built from ...

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