'Pacman' nebula gets some teeth

Oct 27, 2011 By Whitney Clavin
In visible light, the star-forming cloud catalogued as NGC 281 in the constellation of Cassiopeia appears to be chomping through the cosmos, earning it the nickname the "Pacman" nebula after the famous Pac-Man video game of the 1980s. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

(PhysOrg.com) -- To visible-light telescopes, this star-forming cloud appears to be chomping through the cosmos, earning it the nickname the "Pacman" nebula, like the famous Pac-Man video game that debuted in 1980. When viewed in infrared light by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, the Pacman takes on a new appearance. In place of its typical, triangle-shaped mouth is a new set of lower, sharp-looking teeth. The Pacman is located at the top of the picture, taking a bite in the direction of the upper left corner.

The teeth are actually pillars where new stars may be forming. These structures were formed when radiation and winds from massive stars in a central cluster blew gas and dust away, leaving only the densest of material in the pillars. The red dots sprinkled throughout the picture are thought to be the youngest stars, still forming in cocoons of dust.

The Pacman nebula, also called NGC 281, is located 9,200 light years away in the constellation Cassiopeia.

This image was made from observations by all four aboard WISE. Blue and cyan (blue-green) represent infrared light at wavelengths of 3.4 and 4.6 microns, respectively, which is primarily from stars, the hottest objects pictured. Green and red represent light at 12 and 22 microns, respectively, which is primarily from warm dust (with the green dust being warmer than the ).

Explore further: Is the universe finite or infinite?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Pacman Nebula' lives the high life

Sep 29, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- High-mass stars are important because they are responsible for much of the energy pumped into our galaxy over its lifetime.

WISE Captures a Cosmic Rose

Mar 16, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new infrared image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, shows a cosmic rosebud blossoming with new stars. The stars, called the Berkeley 59 cluster, are the blue dots ...

WISE Captures the Unicorn's Rose

Aug 26, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Unicorns and roses are usually the stuff of fairy tales, but a new cosmic image taken by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Explorer (WISE) shows the Rosette nebula located within the constellation ...

Image: Decorating the sky

Dec 27, 2010

This mosaic image taken by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, features three nebulae that are part of the giant Orion Molecular Cloud--the Flame nebula, the Horsehead nebula and NGC 2023.

Hiding Out Behind the Milky Way

Apr 07, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A leggy cosmic creature comes out of hiding in this new infrared view from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE.

'Elephant trunks' in space

Mar 07, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, captured this image of a star-forming cloud of dust and gas, called Sh2-284, located in the constellation of Monoceros. Lining up along ...

Recommended for you

Is the universe finite or infinite?

Mar 27, 2015

Two possiblities exist: either the Universe is finite and has a size, or it's infinite and goes on forever. Both possibilities have mind-bending implications.

'Teapot' nova begins to wane

Mar 27, 2015

A star, or nova, has appeared in the constellation of Sagittarius and, even though it is now waning, it is still bright enough to be visible in the sky over Perth through binoculars or a telescope.

Dark matter is darker than once thought

Mar 27, 2015

This panel of images represents a study of 72 colliding galaxy clusters conducted by a team of astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope. The research sets new limits on ...

Galaxy clusters collide—dark matter still a mystery

Mar 26, 2015

When galaxy clusters collide, their dark matters pass through each other, with very little interaction. Deepening the mystery, a study by scientists at EPFL and the University of Edinburgh challenges the ...

Using 19th century technology to time travel to the stars

Mar 26, 2015

In the late 19th century, astronomers developed the technique of capturing telescopic images of stars and galaxies on glass photographic plates. This allowed them to study the night sky in detail. Over 500,000 ...

User comments : 0

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.