Prawn Nebula: Cosmic recycling

September 2, 2015, ESO
The rich patchwork of gas clouds in this new image make up part of a huge stellar nursery nicknamed the Prawn Nebula (also known as Gum 56 and IC 4628). Taken using the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, this may well be one of the best pictures ever taken of this object. It shows clumps of hot new-born stars nestled in among the clouds that make up the nebula. Credit: ESO

Dominating this image is part of the nebula Gum 56, illuminated by the hot bright young stars that were born within it. For millions of years stars have been created out of the gas in this nebula, material which is later returned to the stellar nursery when the aging stars either expel their material into space or eject it as supernova explosions. This image was taken with the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope in Chile.

Deeply immersed in this huge are three clusters of hot young stars—only a few million years old—which glow brightly in ultraviolet light. It is the light from these stars that causes the nebula's gas clouds to glow. The radiation strips electrons from atoms—a process known as ionisation—and when they recombine they release energy in the form of light. Each chemical element emits light in characteristic colours and the large clouds of hydrogen in the nebula are the cause of its rich red glow.

Gum 56—also known as IC 4628 or by its nickname, the Prawn Nebula—is named after the Australian astronomer Colin Stanley Gum, who, in 1955, published a catalogue of H II regions. H II regions such as Gum 56 are huge, low density clouds containing a large amount of ionised hydrogen.

A large portion of the ionisation in Gum 56 is done by two O-type stars, which are hot blue-white stars, also known as blue giants because of their colour. This type of star is rare in the Universe as the very large mass of blue giants means that they do not live for long. After only roughly a million years these stars will collapse in on themselves and end their lives as supernovae, as will many of the other within the nebula.

Besides the many newborn stars nestled in the nebula, this large region is still filled with enough dust and gas to create an even newer generation of stars. The regions of the nebula giving birth to new stars are visible in the image as dense clouds. The material forming these new stars includes the remains of the most massive from an older generation that have already ended their lives and ejected their material in violent supernova explosions. Thus the cycle of stellar life and death continues.

Given the two very unusual blue giants in this area and the prominence of the nebula at infrared and radio wavelengths, it is perhaps surprising that this region has been comparatively little studied as yet by professional astronomers. Gum 56 has a diameter of around 250 light-years, but despite its huge size it has also often been overlooked by visual observers due to its faintness, and because most of the light it emits is at wavelengths not visible to the human eye.

The is at a distance of about 6000 light-years from Earth. In the sky it can be found in the constellation Scorpius (The Scorpion) where it has a projected size which is four times the size of the full Moon.

Explore further: Young stars cooking in the Prawn Nebula

Related Stories

Young stars cooking in the Prawn Nebula

September 18, 2013

The glowing jumble of gas clouds visible in this new image make up a huge stellar nursery nicknamed the Prawn Nebula. Taken using the VLT Survey Telescope at ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile, this may well be the sharpest ...

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 like the contents ...

Image: A storm of stars in the Trifid nebula

January 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, is the yellow-and-orange ...

ESO image: A study in scarlet

April 16, 2014

This new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that causes the surrounding ...

A grand extravaganza of new stars

March 11, 2015

This dramatic landscape in the southern constellation of Ara (The Altar) is a treasure trove of celestial objects. Star clusters, emission nebulae and active star-forming regions are just some of the riches observed in this ...

Recommended for you

Neutron-star merger yields new puzzle for astrophysicists

January 18, 2018

The afterglow from the distant neutron-star merger detected last August has continued to brighten - much to the surprise of astrophysicists studying the aftermath of the massive collision that took place about 138 million ...

New technique for finding life on Mars

January 18, 2018

Researchers demonstrate for the first time the potential of existing technology to directly detect and characterize life on Mars and other planets. The study, published in Frontiers in Microbiology, used miniaturized scientific ...

North, east, south, west: The many faces of Abell 1758

January 18, 2018

Resembling a swarm of flickering fireflies, this beautiful galaxy cluster glows intensely in the dark cosmos, accompanied by the myriad bright lights of foreground stars and swirling spiral galaxies. A1758N is a sub-cluster ...

10 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

wduckss
1 / 5 (1) Sep 02, 2015
Nebula IC 4628 is "created" from a supernova. Contains countless (quote) young stars that are blue giants, there are two particularly large and has yet much matter for the development of much new stars.
The issue, which exploded? It is clear that not a star, because mass surpasses all known stars.
Stars (first small bodies, and growing) are formed from gas and dust (correctly), that is formed nebula?
JustAnotherGuy
5 / 5 (2) Sep 02, 2015
Nebula IC 4628 is "created" from a supernova. Contains countless (quote) young stars that are blue giants, there are two particularly large and has yet much matter for the development of much new stars.

No, it is not what it says. It doesn't tell what created the nebula.
The nebula produces its stars, these are responsible of its glow, then the stars "give back" the matter when goes supernova and new generations are created with the "new mix".
The point of the story is that the nebula is so huge that these events are cyclically produced many times inside it, like "recycling".

For more details, or the nebula's origin, wait for a professional. But it is not what this article is about.
wduckss
1 / 5 (1) Sep 02, 2015
JustAnotherGuy
"No, it is not what it says. It doesn't tell what created the nebula.
The nebula produces its stars, these are responsible of its glow, then the stars "give back" the matter when goes supernova and new generations are created with the "new mix".
The point of the story is that the nebula is so huge that these events are cyclically produced many times" inside it, like "recycling.
For more details, or the nebula's origin, wait for a professional. But it is not what this article is about."

And I pointed out, deliberately disproportionate (size of the nebula), to the question: How did the nebula ?. Supernova? Not. Most of the matter in the explosion, is disintegrated (officially: it becomes a black hole), cyclicity is, therefore, questionable. If not created out of supernova processes set out in Article are taking place otherwise.
docile
Sep 02, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
JustAnotherGuy
5 / 5 (2) Sep 02, 2015
How did the nebula ?. Supernova? Not. Most of the matter in the explosion, is disintegrated (officially: it becomes a black hole)

The matter (outer layers) is supposed to be expeled, not destoyed. That's how it returns to the nebula.
Whatever happens to the stars's remnant core is not explained here, but these does not always end in blackholes.
wduckss
1 / 5 (1) Sep 03, 2015
Electrons and particles we can not see, even under a microscope in the laboratory, but "we know" how they work on the 6,000 light years away.
Always note that we take evidence and leave the speculation. The proposed official explanation are like Swiss cheese. When do not have the an answer, then blur the complicated structures, which can break everything and everyone, say relations sized the nebula and size the famous the biggest stars.
Even when we add the "black hole" leak out the whole construction.
JustAnotherGuy
5 / 5 (2) Sep 03, 2015
Electrons and particles we can not see, even under a microscope in the laboratory, but "we know" how they work on the 6,000 light years away.

This first sentence seems pretty fine, *astronomers deduce* would fit better instead of "we know". The rest is, somewhat.. excuse me, what?
wduckss
not rated yet Sep 03, 2015
I know my English is a disaster.
What events are more distant, the evidence are becoming "clearer and more numerous."
Probably are hoping that we will not be able to check. See a short article:
http://www.svemir....html#6b
JustAnotherGuy
5 / 5 (2) Sep 04, 2015
So far, the problem wasn't your english but your concepts.
Hum.. that "short article" of yours seems to be another...hum... set of alternative theories. That's ok, no problem.
Keep in mind that if you are to make criticism of standard theories it's better if you interpret them correctly prior to that. Also, presenting some evidence will do better for "debunking" them rather than presenting alternative theories since these last require evidence too.
wduckss
not rated yet Sep 04, 2015
I appreciate your opinion.
The particles in accelerators are dezintegrijaju, true or not. The forces in the explosion stars are greater than or equal forces collisions in accelerators, true or not ...

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.