The 'flame' burns bright in new WISE image

Jul 03, 2012
The Flame Nebula sits on the eastern hip of Orion the Hunter, a constellation most easily visible in the northern hemisphere during winter evenings. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

(Phys.org) -- A new image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, shows the candle-like Flame nebula lighting up a cavern of dust. The Flame nebula is part of the Orion complex, a turbulent star-forming area located near the constellation's star-studded belt.

The image is being released today along with a new batch of data from the mission. Last March, WISE released its all-sky catalog and atlas containing and data on more than a half billion objects, including everything from asteroids to . Now, the mission is offering up additional data from its second scan of the sky.

"If you're an astronomer, then you'll probably be in hog heaven when it comes to ," said Edward (Ned) Wright of UCLA, the principal investigator of the WISE mission. "Data from the second sky scan are useful for studying stars that vary or move over time, and for improving and checking data from the first scan."

The new WISE view of the Flame nebula, in which colors are assigned to different channels of infrared light, looks like what appears to be a flaming candle sending off billows of smoke. In fact, the wispy tendrils in the image are part of the larger Orion star-forming complex, a huge churning out new stars. In the Flame nebula, are carving a cavity in this dust. Intense ultraviolet light from a central massive star 20 times heavier than our sun, and buried in the blanketing dust, is causing the cloud to glow in . This star would be almost as bright to our eyes as the three stars in Orion's belt, but the dust makes the star appear 4 billion times fainter than it really is.

Other features in this view include the nebula NGC 2023, seen as a bright circle in the lower half of the image, and the famous Horsehead nebula, which is hard to see but located to the right of one of the lower, vertical ridges. The bright red arc at lower right is a , where material in front of the speeding multiple-star system Sigma Orionis is piling up.

The data released today cover about one-third of the mission's second full scan of the sky. They were taken from August to September 2010 as the telescope began to deplete its coolant, operating with three of its four infrared detectors. The coolant kept the telescope chilled to prevent its heat, or infrared radiation, from interfering with the observations. As the telescope warmed during this period, one of the four channels on WISE was overwhelmed by the infrared radiation.

Explore further: Comet Jacques makes a 'questionable' appearance

More information: An introduction and quick guide to accessing the WISE all-sky archive for astronomers is online at: wise2.ipac.caltech.edu/docs/release/allsky/ .

Related Stories

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.

'Pacman' nebula gets some teeth

Oct 27, 2011

(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 ...

The art of making stars

Apr 04, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- It might look like an abstract painting, but this splash of colors is in fact a busy star-forming complex called Rho Ophiuchi. NASA's Wide-field Infrared Explorer, or WISE, captured the picturesque ...

WISE presents a cosmic wreath

Dec 23, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Just in time for the holidays, astronomers have come across a new image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, that some say resembles a wreath. You might even think of ...

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 ...

Spitzer Reveals New Wonders in the Familiar Orion Nebula

Aug 15, 2006

The Orion nebula is one of the most famous and easily viewed deep-sky sights. Located in the sword of Orion the Hunter, this distant cloud of gas and dust holds hundreds of young stars. At its center, a cluster ...

Recommended for you

Comet Jacques makes a 'questionable' appearance

12 hours ago

What an awesome photo! Italian amateur astronomer Rolando Ligustri nailed it earlier today using a remote telescope in New Mexico and wide-field 4-inch (106 mm) refractor. Currently the brightest comet in ...

Image: Our flocculent neighbour, the spiral galaxy M33

12 hours ago

The spiral galaxy M33, also known as the Triangulum Galaxy, is one of our closest cosmic neighbours, just three million light-years away. Home to some forty billion stars, it is the third largest in the ...

Image: Chandra's view of the Tycho Supernova remnant

Jul 25, 2014

More than four centuries after Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe first observed the supernova that bears his name, the supernova remnant it created is now a bright source of X-rays. The supersonic expansion of ...

User comments : 0