Glory from gloom

January 31, 2018, ESO
A dark cloud of cosmic dust snakes across this spectacular wide field image, illuminated by the brilliant light of new stars. This dense cloud is a star-forming region called Lupus 3, where dazzlingly hot stars are born from collapsing masses of gas and dust. This image was created from images taken using the VLT Survey Telescope and the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope and is the most detailed image taken so far of this region. Credit: ESO/R. Colombari

A dark cloud of cosmic dust snakes across this spectacular wide field image, illuminated by the brilliant light of new stars. This dense cloud is a star-forming region called Lupus 3, where dazzlingly hot stars are born from collapsing masses of gas and dust. This image was created from images taken using the VLT Survey Telescope and the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope and is the most detailed image taken so far of this region.

The Lupus 3 star forming region lies within the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion), only 600 light-years away from Earth. It is part of a larger complex called the Lupus Clouds, which takes its name from the adjacent constellation of Lupus (The Wolf constellation ). The clouds resemble smoke billowing across a background of millions of , but in fact these are a dark nebula.

Nebulae are great swathes of gas and dust strung out between the stars, sometimes stretching out over hundreds of light-years. While many nebulae are spectacularly illuminated by the intense radiation of hot stars, dark nebulae shroud the light of the celestial objects within them. They are also known as absorption nebulae, because they are made up of cold, dense particles of dust that absorb and scatter light as it passes through the cloud.

Famous dark nebulae include the Coalsack Nebula and the Great Rift (astronomy), which are large enough to be seen with the naked eye, starkly black against the brilliance of the Milky Way .

Lupus 3 has an irregular form, appearing like a misshapen snake across the sky. In this image it is a region of contrasts, with thick dark trails set against the glare of bright blue stars at the centre. Like most , Lupus 3 is an active region, primarily composed of protostars and very young stars. Nearby disturbances can cause denser clumps of the nebula to contract under gravity, becoming hot and pressurised in the process. Eventually, a protostar is born out of the extreme conditions in the core of this collapsing cloud.

The two brilliant stars in the centre of this image underwent this very process. Early in their lives, the radiation they emitted was largely blocked by the thick veil of their host , visible only to telescopes at infrared and radio wavelengths. But as they grew hotter and brighter, their and strong stellar winds swept the surrounding areas clear of gas and dust, allowing them to emerge gloriously from their gloomy nursery to shine brightly.

These two stars are still very young—so young that nuclear fusion has not yet been triggered in their cores. Instead, their brightness is caused by the conversion of gravitational energy into heat as their turbulent cores contract.

Understanding nebulae is critical for understanding the processes of star formation—indeed, it is thought that the Sun formed in a star formation very similar to Lupus 3 over four billion years ago. As one of the closest stellar nurseries, Lupus 3 has been the subject of many studies; in 2013, the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile captured a smaller picture of its dark smoke-like columns and brilliant stars.

Explore further: Light from the darkness

Related Stories

Light from the darkness

January 16, 2013

(Phys.org)—An evocative new image from ESO shows a dark cloud where new stars are forming, along with a cluster of brilliant stars that have already emerged from their dusty stellar nursery. The new picture was taken with ...

Stellar nursery blooms into view

December 13, 2017

The OmegaCAM camera on ESO's VLT Survey Telescope has captured this glittering view of the stellar nursery called Sharpless 29. Many astronomical phenomena can be seen in this giant image, including cosmic dust and gas clouds ...

Atacama Pathfinder Experiment: Setting the dark on fire

January 23, 2013

(Phys.org)—A new image from the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope in Chile shows a beautiful view of clouds of cosmic dust in the region of Orion. While these dense interstellar clouds seem dark and obscured ...

A star's moment in the spotlight

February 10, 2016

The glowing region in this new image from the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope is a reflection nebula known as IC 2631. These objects are clouds of cosmic dust that reflect light from a nearby star into space, creating a stunning ...

Cosmic forecast: Dark clouds will give way to sunshine

September 3, 2014

Lupus 4, a spider-shaped blob of gas and dust, blots out background stars like a dark cloud on a moonless night in this intriguing new image. Although gloomy for now, dense pockets of material within clouds such as Lupus ...

Recommended for you

Mercury studies reveal an intriguing target for BepiColombo

September 19, 2018

A month before the planned launch of the joint ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury, two new studies shed light on when the innermost planet formed and the puzzle of its chemical composition. The findings will be presented ...

Video: Net successfully snares space debris

September 19, 2018

The RemoveDEBRIS satellite has successfully used its on-board net technology in orbit – the first demonstration in human history of active debris removal (ADR) technology.

7 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Benni
1 / 5 (7) Jan 31, 2018
More dismal news for Dark Matter Enthusiasts who hate the kind of news that pushes their cosmic fairy dust into an even smaller volume of the makeup of the Universe. Let's hear that drumroll.................!!!! Aw, sounds so good.
RNP
3.9 / 5 (11) Jan 31, 2018
@Benni
What on Earth makes you think this article has ANYTHING to do with dark matter?
Guy_Underbridge
5 / 5 (8) Jan 31, 2018
More dismal news for Dark Matter Enthusiasts
Even worse news for Dark Cloud enthusiasts, Dark Nebula enthusiast, Dark Trails enthusiasts and Dark Smoke-like Columns (my personal fav) enthusiasts, all of which were mentioned (but not Dark Matter).
Benni
1 / 5 (6) Jan 31, 2018
@Benni
What on Earth makes you think this article has ANYTHING to do with dark matter?


You should have made up a Differential Equation for this response & miswrite it the last time you tried it.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (7) Jan 31, 2018
The dusty electric current's magnetic fields are pinching down to create stars. All the hullabaloo about gravity and collapsing matter is nonsensical mumbo jumbo, EM forces dominate at these scales and is what drives star formation/evolution.
MikeJH82
5 / 5 (8) Jan 31, 2018
"The dusty electric current's magnetic fields are pinching down to create stars. All the hullabaloo about gravity and collapsing matter is nonsensical mumbo jumbo, EM forces dominate at these scales and is what drives star formation/evolution."

Can I ask why you haven't submitted a paper on this to a prestigious journal and won yourself a Nobel Prize?

Let me guess: there's a conspiracy, right?

MikeJH82
5 / 5 (7) Jan 31, 2018
@Benni
What on Earth makes you think this article has ANYTHING to do with dark matter?


Probably because he gets all his knowledge of astronomy and cosmology from YouTube channels whose names include the word "truth" :)

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.