Spitzer Catches Young Stars in Their Baby Blanket of Dust

Feb 11, 2008
Spitzer Catches Young Stars in Their Baby Blanket of Dust
Newborn stars peek out from beneath their natal blanket of dust in this dynamic image of the Rho Ophiuchi dark cloud from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Called "Rho Oph" by astronomers, it's one of the closest star-forming regions to our own solar system. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Harvard-Smithsonian CfA

Newborn stars peek out from beneath their natal blanket of dust in this dynamic image of the Rho Ophiuchi dark cloud from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

Called "Rho Oph" by astronomers, it's one of the closest star-forming regions to our own solar system. Located near the constellations Scorpius and Ophiuchus, the nebula is about 407 light years away from Earth.

Rho Oph is made up of a large main cloud of molecular hydrogen, a key molecule allowing new stars to form out of cold cosmic gas, with two long streamers trailing off in different directions. Recent studies using the latest X-ray and infrared observations reveal more than 300 young stellar objects within the large central cloud. Their median age is only 300,000 years, very young compared to some of the universe's oldest stars, which are more than 12 billion years old.

"Rho Oph is a favorite region for astronomers studying star formation. Because the stars are so young, we can observe them at a very early evolutionary stage, and because the Ophiuchus molecular cloud is relatively close, we can resolve more detail than in more distant clusters, like Orion," said Lori Allen, lead investigator of the new observations, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass.

This false-color image of Rho Oph's main cloud, Lynds 1688, was created with data from Spitzer's infrared array camera, which has the highest spatial resolution of Spitzer's three imaging instruments, and its multiband imaging photometer, best for detecting cooler materials.

The colors in this image reflect the relative temperatures and evolutionary states of the various stars. The youngest stars are surrounded by dusty disks of gas from which they and their potential planetary systems are forming. These young disk systems show up as red in this image. Some of these young stellar objects are surrounded by their own compact nebulae. More evolved stars, which have shed their natal material, are blue.

The extended white nebula in the center right of the image is a region of the cloud glowing in infrared light due to the heating of dust by bright young stars near the cloud's right edge. Fainter, multi-hued diffuse emission fills the image. The color of the nebulosity depends on the temperature, composition and size of the dust grains. Most of the stars forming now are concentrated in a filament of cold, dense gas that shows up as a dark cloud in the lower center and left side of the image against the bright background of the warm dust.

Source: NASA

Explore further: Witnessing the early growth of a giant

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Supernova seen in two lights

Aug 22, 2014

(Phys.org) —The destructive results of a mighty supernova explosion reveal themselves in a delicate blend of infrared and X-ray light, as seen in this image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and Chandra ...

A spectacular landscape of star formation

Aug 20, 2014

This image, captured by the Wide Field Imager at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile, shows two dramatic star formation regions in the Milky Way. The first, on the left, is dominated by the star cluster NGC ...

Triangulum galaxy snapped by VST

Aug 06, 2014

The VLT Survey Telescope at ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile has captured a beautifully detailed image of the galaxy Messier 33. This nearby spiral, the second closest large galaxy to our own galaxy, is ...

Comet joined by space probe after 10-year pursuit

Aug 06, 2014

Turning what seemed like a science fiction tale into reality, an unmanned probe swung alongside a comet on Wednesday after a 4-billion mile (6.4-billion kilometer) chase through outer space over the course ...

Deep astrophoto of LDN 673

Aug 05, 2014

What a stunning view of this dark region of space! This image, by astrophotographer Callum Hayton shows LDN 673, a molecular cloud complex that lies in the constellation Aquila. This region is massive—around ...

Recommended for you

Witnessing the early growth of a giant

9 hours ago

Astronomers have uncovered for the first time the earliest stages of a massive galaxy forming in the young Universe. The discovery was made possible through combining observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble ...

Evidence for supernovas near Earth

15 hours ago

Once every 50 years, more or less, a massive star explodes somewhere in the Milky Way. The resulting blast is terrifyingly powerful, pumping out more energy in a split second than the sun emits in a million ...

What lit up the universe?

22 hours ago

New research from UCL shows we will soon uncover the origin of the ultraviolet light that bathes the cosmos, helping scientists understand how galaxies were built.

Eta Carinae: Our Neighboring Superstars

Aug 26, 2014

(Phys.org) —The Eta Carinae star system does not lack for superlatives. Not only does it contain one of the biggest and brightest stars in our galaxy, weighing at least 90 times the mass of the Sun, it ...

User comments : 0