Image: A sequence of star-forming regions in the molecular cloud W48

Jun 23, 2014
Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/HOBYS Key Programme consortium

(Phys.org) —Just as children are sorted into age groups at school, so the seeds of new stars can also be found in 'classes' of others of similar ages. This is especially true when the birth of stars in a cloud of gas and dust is triggered by an external event, like the explosion of a nearby supernova.

This image from ESA's Herschel space observatory shows a sequence of star-forming regions in the molecular cloud W48, some 10 000 light-years away in the constellation Aquila (the Eagle).

The blue, jellyfish-shaped cloud at the lower left is the oldest stellar nursery in the image. Young and embedded within it have shaped it into a bubble and heated the diffuse gas, making it shine at the longest wavelengths probed by Herschel.

To its right, another glowing cloud conceals clumps that will evolve into massive . These clumps, some of which are visible as bright blotches of light, are also lined up by their age: the older ones at the lower-left and the younger ones to the upper-right. The youngest in this sequence is the small cyan lump at the centre of the image, harbouring the seeds of future massive stars.

Astronomers believe that this sequence of stellar birth is the result of dozens of supernovas that exploded over 10 million years ago in a region called Aquila Supershell, beyond the left edge of this image. Compressing the surrounding material, these supernovas may have initiated a wave of star formation that sparked, one by one, these stellar cribs.

The image is a composite of the wavelengths of 70 microns (blue), 160 microns (green) and 250 microns (red) and spans about one degree on the long side. North is to the upper-left and east is to the lower left. The data were acquired with Herschel's PACS and SPIRE instruments in September 2010, as part of a larger map of the W48 molecular complex in the HOBYS Key Programme. This was first published in a paper by Q. Nguyen Luong, et al. 2011. A more detailed study of the star-forming regions shown in this image is presented in a paper by K.L.J. Rygl, et al. 2014.

Explore further: The 'Serpent' star-forming cloud hatches new stars

More information: "The Herschel view of massive star formation in G035.39–00.33: dense and cold filament of W48 undergoing a mini-starburst." Q. Nguyên Luong, et al. A&A Volume 535, November 2011, dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/201117831.

K. L. J. Rygl, S. Goedhart, D. Polychroni, F. Wyrowski, F. Motte, D. Elia, Q. Nguyen-Luong, P. Didelon, M. Pestalozzi, M. Benedettini, S. Molinari, Ph. André, C. Fallscheer, A. Gibb, A. M. di Giorgio, T. Hill, V. Könyves, A. Marston, S. Pezzuto, A. Rivera-Ingraham, E. Schisano, N. Schneider, L. Spinoglio, D. Ward-Thompson, and G. J. White. "A Herschel and BIMA study of the sequential star formation near the W 48A H II region." MNRAS (May 01, 2014) Vol. 440 427-447 first published online March 11, 2014 DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stu300

Related Stories

Image: Star factory NGC 7538

Mar 04, 2014

(Phys.org) —The billowing clouds portrayed in this image from ESA's Herschel observatory are part of NGC 7538, a stellar nursery for massive stars. Located around 9000 light-years away, this is one of the ...

Image: Star-forming region ON2

Mar 24, 2014

(Phys.org) —Massive stars are born in tumultuous clouds of gas and dust. They lead a brief but intense life, blowing powerful winds of particles and radiation that strike their surroundings, before their ...

The 'Serpent' star-forming cloud hatches new stars

May 30, 2014

(Phys.org) —Stars that are just beginning to coalesce out of cool swaths of dust and gas are showcased in this image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS). Infrared ...

Image: A storm of stars in the Trifid nebula

Jan 30, 2014

(Phys.org) —A storm of stars is brewing in the Trifid nebula, as seen in this view from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The stellar nursery, where baby stars are bursting into being, ...

Image: Glowing jewels in the galactic plane

Apr 29, 2014

The majority of the stars in our Galaxy, the Milky Way, reside in a single huge disc, known as the Galactic Plane, spanning 100 000 light-years across. The Sun also resides in this crowded stellar hub, lying ...

Violent birth announcement from an infant star

Jun 06, 2014

(Phys.org) —This Hubble image shows IRAS 14568-6304, a young star that is cloaked in a haze of golden gas and dust. It appears to be embedded within an intriguing swoosh of dark sky, which curves through ...

Recommended for you

Shining message about the end of the Dark Ages

56 minutes ago

An international team, including researchers from the Centre for Astronomy of Heidelberg University (ZAH), has discovered three "cosmic Methusalems" from the earliest years of the universe. These unusual stars are about 13 ...

The kinematics of merging galaxies

1 hour ago

The unprecedented sensitivity of space telescopes has powered a revolution over the past decade in our understanding of galaxies in the young universe during its first billion years of existence. These primitive ...

Hubble video shows shock collision inside black hole jet

15 hours ago

When you're blasting though space at more than 98 percent of the speed of light, you may need driver's insurance. Astronomers have discovered for the first time a rear-end collision between two high-speed ...

A bubbly cosmic celebration

May 27, 2015

In the brightest region of the nebula RCW 34, gas is heated and expands through the surrounding cooler gas. Once the heated hydrogen reaches the borders of the gas cloud, it bursts outwards into the vacuum ...

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.