'This is not a pipe': Curious dark nebula seen as never before

Aug 15, 2012
This picture shows Barnard 59, part of a vast dark cloud of interstellar dust called the Pipe Nebula. This new and very detailed image of what is known as a dark nebula was captured by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory. This image is so large that it is strongly recommended to use the zoomable version to appreciate it fully. Credit: ESO

(Phys.org) -- Just as René Magritte wrote “This is not a pipe” on his famous painting, this is also not a pipe. It is however a picture of part of a vast dark cloud of interstellar dust called the Pipe Nebula. This new and very detailed image of what is also known as Barnard 59 was captured by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. By coincidence this image is appearing on the 45th anniversary of the painter’s death.

The Pipe Nebula is a prime example of a dark nebula. Originally, astronomers believed these were areas in space where there were no stars. But it was later discovered that dark nebulae actually consist of clouds of interstellar dust so thick it can block out the light from the stars beyond. The Pipe Nebula appears silhouetted against the rich star clouds close to the centre of the Milky Way in the constellation of Ophiuchus (The Serpent Bearer).

Barnard 59 forms the mouthpiece of the Pipe Nebula and is the subject of this new image from the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope. This strange and complex dark nebula lies about 600-700 light-years away from Earth.

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This video sequence starts with a broad panorama of the spectacular region in the direction of the centre of the Milky Way. We then close in on a curious dark feature called the Pipe Nebula. Here dense clouds of interstellar dust are silhouetted against the rich star clouds in the constellation of Ophiuchus (The Serpent Bearer), close to the more familiar constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion). We finally focus on one end of the pipe, a strange dark feature called Barnard 59. It is shown in a very detailed new image from the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. Credit: ESO/Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org) / S. Guisard Music: Disasterpeace

The nebula is named after the American astronomer Edward Emerson Barnard who was the first to systematically record dark nebulae using long-exposure photography and one of those who recognised their dusty nature. Barnard catalogued a total of 370 dark nebulae all over the sky. A self-made man, he bought his first house with the prize money from discovering several comets. Barnard was an extraordinary observer with exceptional eyesight who made contributions in many fields of astronomy in the late 19th and early 20th century.

At first glance, your attention is most likely drawn to the centre of the image where dark twisting clouds look a little like the legs of a vast spider stretched across a web of stars. However, after a few moments you will begin to notice several finer details. Foggy, smoky shapes in the middle of the darkness are lit up by new stars that are forming. Star formation is common within regions that contain dense, molecular clouds, such as in dark nebulae. The dust and gas will clump together under the influence of gravity and more and more material will be attracted until the star is formed. However, compared to similar regions, the Barnard 59 region is undergoing relatively little star formation and still has a great deal of dust.

If you look carefully you may also be able to spot more than a dozen tiny blue, green and red strips scattered across the picture. These are asteroids, chunks of rock and metal a few kilometres across that are orbiting the Sun. The majority lie in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Barnard 59 is about ten million times further away from the Earth than these tiny objects.

And finally, as you take in this richly textured tapestry of celestial objects, consider for a moment that when you look up at this region of sky from Earth you would be able to fit this entire image under your thumb held at arms-length despite it being about six light-years across at the distance of Barnard 59.

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HannesAlfven
1.5 / 5 (8) Aug 15, 2012
If we insist upon calling these interstellar morphologies "clouds," then perhaps we should also adopt the terminology for the filaments of novelty plasma globes as well. After all, the "clouds" of the novelty "plasma cloud chamber" also twist. In fact, it seems to be the nature of Birkeland "Clouds", which we can observe within the solar "wind" to regularly connect the Earth and Sun. Nevermind that the "wind" which blows these "clouds" from the Sun fails to appreciably decelerate even as it passes the Earth's orbit. We will surely one day figure out how the Sun's "wind" can blow the "clouds" faster, the farther that the "clouds" get from their source.
Fleetfoot
3.8 / 5 (4) Aug 17, 2012
They are called nebulae because they are cold so made of neutral atoms and dust, plasma is ionised.

The "Solar wind" flow is typically about 400km/s at Earth, escape velocity is 42.1km/s so by the time it leaves the Solar system, it should only have decelerated by 2km/s or 0.5%

Nor are nebulae "blown out" from stars, they are the original material from which stars form as can be seen happening in the image and many other regions.

If you insist on imposing your clueless nonsense on everything you see, you cannot hope to remain objective or keep any shred of credibility.
Shelgeyr
2.1 / 5 (8) Aug 17, 2012
@Fleetfoot: Almost all nebulae radiate (this one apparently being an exception), so at minimum your explanation as to why they're called "nebulae" is incorrect.

The "Solar wind", the heliospherical current sheet, accelerates (not decelerates) as it heads out away from the sun.

Your assertion of the origin of nebulae is just your opinion, not a "proven scientific fact" (and for those playing along at home, yes I know there is no such thing, so the judges would also accept something strongly supported by a preponderance of evidence, and is resistant to disproof), so you don't have a basis for turning around and labeling another contributor's reasoned argument as "clueless nonsense".

There is considerable ongoing research in this area by sane, learned, and credentialed researchers, and arguably at least one very applicable Nobel Prize has been awarded.

So please don't be offended if knowledgeable people blow off your own comments as being clueless nonsense, and juvenile at that.
HannesAlfven
3 / 5 (8) Aug 17, 2012
There exists a fundamental difference between being able to recount knowledge structures from memory, and being able to question the validity of those knowledge structures. Joseph Novak invented the technique of concept mapping because he noticed that students that memorize facts rarely assimilate novel conceptual relationships into the knowledge structures from which they problem-solve. Kegan and Lahey wrote a book titled "Immunity to Change," based upon a lifetime of work on this very subject, and they found that a majority of people treat information which requires a paradigm change as merely a technical - rather than an adaptive - challenge. In other words, people generally imagine that they can just memorize the new information, and their brain will simply know how to apply the new paradigm.

Critical thinking demands a "self-transforming perspective," whereby a person is able to question assumptions, listen to critics and critique their own knowledge.
HannesAlfven
2.3 / 5 (6) Aug 17, 2012
But, the problem is that critical thinking in science is increasingly viewed by today's students as crackpottery or crankism. The increased focus upon testing in our educational system seems to be leaving false impressions regarding the roles of uncertainty and controversy in science. Here is a helpful way to think about uncertainty: The goal in science is not to get rid of uncertainty. Since uncertainty guides our questions, it plays a vital role in science. As our ability to see and measure declines, our uncertainty increases. Thus, certain disciplines are inherently less certain than others, which means that we are obliged to opening our minds to alternative theories, if we expect to have a shot at creating useful knowledge structures about those disciplines.

A very important detail is that 99% of what we see with our telescopes is matter in the plasma state, so how we talk about and model those cosmic plasmas is *incredibly* important.
Fleetfoot
4.5 / 5 (4) Aug 18, 2012
@Fleetfoot: Almost all nebulae radiate (this one apparently being an exception), so at minimum your explanation as to why they're called "nebulae" is incorrect.


True, I was specifically talking about "dark nebulae" where the low radiation is due to the mostly neutral state.

The "Solar wind", the heliospherical current sheet, ..


"Current sheet"? There is no average net current.

.. accelerates (not decelerates) as it heads out away from the sun.


Yes, due to radiation pressure, but even ignoring that effect, my point was that the gravitational effect alone would produce negligible slowing so to say "Nevermind that the 'wind' which blows these 'clouds' from the Sun fails to appreciably decelerate even as it passes the Earth's orbit." is clearly merely an attempt to create a strawman argument.
Fleetfoot
4.3 / 5 (7) Aug 18, 2012
Your assertion of the origin of nebulae is just your opinion, not a "proven scientific fact" (.. yes I know there is no such thing, ..),


The only facts in science are the data from experiments and observation. Of course I'm not talking about planetary nebulae here but those where observation shows the metallicity is consistent with the primordial mix plus contamination from supernovae etc.

so you don't have a basis for turning around and labeling another contributor's reasoned argument as "clueless nonsense".


The poster offered no "reasoned argument" in his contribution, what I call "clueless nonsense" is the model behind his post.

There is considerable ongoing research in this area by sane, learned, and credentialed researchers, ...


While there is considerable and valid work going on into plasma effects in general, the model known as "Plasma Cosmology" is considered a crank theory by the professional community.
Fleetfoot
4.1 / 5 (8) Aug 18, 2012
But, the problem is that critical thinking in science is increasingly viewed by today's students as crackpottery or crankism. The increased focus upon testing in our educational system seems to be leaving false impressions regarding the roles of uncertainty and controversy in science.


"Critical thinking" is of course a vital part of science, the whole ethos of peer review relies on it. "Crackpottery or crankism" is exactly the opposite, it is the adherence to a model or theory which is at odds with observation and has failed to withstand the "critical thinking" test.

A very important detail is that 99% of what we see with our telescopes is matter in the plasma state, so how we talk about and model those cosmic plasmas is *incredibly* important.


Agreed, but going from there to build models of stars powered by galactic scale electric currents is where important science descends into fantasy.
Shelgeyr
1.5 / 5 (6) Aug 18, 2012
@Fleetfoot said:
"Current sheet"? There is no average net current.

Wow, you are SO mistaken. In fact, if I'd left off the "-al" of "heliospherical", I'd have been using its proper name. In other words, I didn't invent this, and it isn't just a concept.

Yes, due to radiation pressure,...

No, but rather due to (pick at least one) solar magnetic fields and/or the sun's electric polarity relative to the solar wind (there IS some debate...).

but even ignoring that effect, [snip]"Nevermind that the 'wind' which blows these 'clouds' from the Sun fails to appreciably decelerate even as it passes the Earth's orbit." is clearly merely an attempt to create a strawman argument.

Please forgive me, but you lost me there. A strawman argument whose point is supposedly what?
Shelgeyr
1.6 / 5 (7) Aug 18, 2012
@Fleetfoot said:
While there is considerable and valid work going on into plasma effects in general, the model known as "Plasma Cosmology" is considered a crank theory by the professional community.


You just committed the logical fallacy called "Appeal to Authority". See also: "Flat Earth".

Agreed, but going from there to build models of stars powered by galactic scale electric currents is where important science descends into fantasy.


No, but it IS an honest use of the term "paradigm shift". In fact, so much so that I'm certain it resembles fantasy to those who either don't have the background to understand the forces involved (or at least not their ramifications), or are so overwhelmingly dogmatic as to dismiss as fantasy (without an evidentiary basis for doing so), evidence, extrapolations, and theories which threaten the "truths" to which they have become comfortable.
Fleetfoot
5 / 5 (4) Aug 19, 2012
Shelgeyr appealed to authority writing:
There is considerable ongoing research in this area by sane, learned, and credentialed researchers, ...


@Fleetfoot said:
While there is considerable and valid work going on into plasma effects in general, the model known as "Plasma Cosmology" is considered a crank theory by the professional community.


You just committed the logical fallacy called "Appeal to Authority". See also: "Flat Earth".


Incorrect, I only responded to your such claim by pointing out that the "ongoing research .. by sane, learned, and credentialed researchers" is into credible plasma effects, not the "electric universe" model.

Agreed, but going from there to build models of stars powered by galactic scale electric currents is where important science descends into fantasy.


No, but it IS an honest use of the term "paradigm shift".


It would be an alternative paradigm certainly, but there has been no shift towards it.
Fleetfoot
5 / 5 (2) Aug 19, 2012
Shelgeyr wrote:
.. dismiss as fantasy (without an evidentiary basis for doing so) ..
Let me show you an example of 'evidence':
@Fleetfoot said:
"Current sheet"? There is no average net current.
Wow, you are SO mistaken. .. I didn't invent this, and it isn't just a concept.


I'm well aware of that:

http://en.wikiped..._current

".. the radial circuit being closed by outward currents aligned with the Sun's magnetic field in the solar polar regions. .."

The flow is a closed circuit within the solar system.

.. the sun's electric polarity relative to the solar wind ..


The Sun is a conductive sphere and hence electrically forms one plate of a capacitor:

http://hyperphysi...sph.html

You can take it as isolated with 'b -> oo' or take 'b' to be the termination shock (where transverse flow can become dominant), they both give a value around 77390uF.

(to be continued ....)
Fleetfoot
5 / 5 (1) Aug 19, 2012
(continued)

The "Solar wind", the heliospherical current sheet, accelerates (not decelerates) as it heads out away from the sun.


.. the sun's electric polarity relative to the solar wind ..


Given that the Sun can be modelled as an isolated capacitor of 7.7*10^-2F:

dV/dt = I/C

so for a radial current of 3*10_9A from:

http://en.wikiped..._current

dV/dt ~ 3.9*10^10 Volts/sec

For "the sun's electric polarity relative to the solar wind" to be constant, the net current has to be zero as I said.

The "heliospheric current sheet" is an electrical current whose radial component is towards the Sun in the ecliptic, it is a closed circuit overall and is quite distinct from the Solar Wind which is a neutral particle flow (equal positive and negative charge rates) at 400km/s away from the Sun.