This picture reveals thick clumps of dust silhouetted against the pink glowing gas cloud known to astronomers as IC 2944. These opaque blobs resemble drops of ink floating in a strawberry cocktail, their whimsical shapes sculpted by powerful radiation coming from the nearby brilliant young stars.
The faint green glow you see in that picture is not an early harbringer of Hallowe’en spooks. It’s hydrogen gas clouds found recently nearby W26, a future supernova in the star cluster Westerlund 1.
Image:A “super star cluster”, Westerlund 1, which is about 16,000 light-years from Earth. It can be found in the southern constellation of Ara. The picture was taken from the European Southern Observatory’s VLT Survey Telescope.Credit:ESO/VPHAS+ Survey/N. Wright
The European Southern Observatory’s VLT Survey Telescope in Chile spotted the hydrogen in the cluster, which has hundreds of huge stars that are only believed to be a few million years old. (Our solar system, by comparison, is about 4.5 billion years old.)
“Such glowing clouds around massive stars are very rare, and are even rarer around a red supergiant— this is the first ionised nebula discovered around such a star,” the European Southern Observatory stated.
“W26 itself would be too cool to make the gas glow; the astronomers speculate that the source of the ionizing radiation may be either hot blue stars elsewhere in the cluster, or possibly a fainter, but much hotter, companion star to W26.”
Funny enough, the nebula that surrounds the red supergiant is similar to the one surrounding SN1987A, a star that exploded as a fairly bright supernova in 1987. “Studying objects like this new nebula around W26 will help astronomers to understand the mass loss processes around these massive stars, which eventually lead to their explosive demise,” ESO added.
How often people speak of art and science as though they were two entirely different things, with no interconnection. An artist is emotional, they think, and uses only his intuition; he sees all at once and has no need of reason. A scientist is cold, they think, and uses only his reason; he argues carefully step by step, and needs no imagination. That is all wrong. The true artist is quite rational as well as imaginative and knows what he is doing; if he does not, his art suffers. The true scientist is quite imaginative as well as rational, and sometimes leaps to solutions where reason can follow only slowly; if he does not, his science suffers.
Minkowski 2-9, abbreviated M2-9 is a planetary nebula that was discovered by Rudolph Minkowski in 1947. It is located about 2,100 light-years away from Earth in the direction of the constellation Ophiuchus.
Have you ever wondered which places on Earth most resemble other planets? For some of us, imagining the landscape of other worlds might just be for fun, but scientists and engineers wonder about what the otherworldly places on Earth can tell us about neighbors like the Moon and Mars.
Working in the most unusual places on Earth can help us to prepare for human flights, robotic missions and the search for life beyond our own planet. These analogues are chosen because they are similar in one way or another to particular planetary environments. They can be used for technical tests and research before the effort and expense of a launch into space.
Shift your perspective and imagine seeing the Earth from the outside; an alien planet in the vastness of space. If our photographs of Earth had been returned from robotic probes that had traveled for light years, how would you see them? From this perspective we can begin to experience the magnificence of the planet that is our home.