Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

An angry bird in the sky: Lambda Centauri Nebula

Date:
September 21, 2011
Source:
European Southern Observatory - ESO
Summary:
A new image from the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope reveals the Lambda Centauri Nebula, a cloud of glowing hydrogen and newborn stars in the constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur). The nebula, also known as IC 2944, is sometimes nicknamed the Running Chicken Nebula, from a bird-like shape some people see in its brightest region.

This new image from the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope shows the Running Chicken Nebula, a cloud of gas and newborn stars that lies around 6500 light-years away from us in the constellation of Centaurus (the Centaur). Officially called IC 2944, or the Lambda Centauri Nebula, its strange nickname comes from the bird-like shape of its brightest region. The star Lambda Centauri itself lies just outside the field of view.
Credit: ESO

A new image from the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope reveals the Lambda Centauri Nebula, a cloud of glowing hydrogen and newborn stars in the constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur). The nebula, also known as IC 2944, is sometimes nicknamed the Running Chicken Nebula, from a bird-like shape some people see in its brightest region.

In the nebula, which lies around 6500 light-years from Earth, hot newborn stars that formed from clouds of hydrogen gas shine brightly with ultraviolet light. This intense radiation in turn excites the surrounding hydrogen cloud, making it glow a distinctive shade of red. This red shade is typical of star-forming regions, another famous example being the Lagoon Nebula.

Some people see a chicken shape in pictures of this red star-forming region, giving the nebula its nickname -- though there is some disagreement over exactly which part of the nebula is chicken shaped, with various bird-like features in evidence across the picture.

Aside from the glowing gas, another sign of star formation in IC 2944 is the series of opaque black clumps silhouetted against the red background in part of this image. These are examples of a type of object called Bok globules. They appear dark as they absorb the light from the luminous background. However, observations of these dark clouds using infrared telescopes, which are able to see through the dust that normally blocks visible light, have revealed that stars are forming within many of them.

The most prominent collection of Bok globules in this image is known as Thackeray's Globules, after the South African astronomer who discovered them in the 1950s. Visible among a group of bright stars in the upper right part of the image, these globules feature in a famous image taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

While Hubble offers greater detail in its image of this small area, the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory captures a much larger panorama in its images, covering an area of sky roughly the size of the full Moon [1]. Much like a zoom lens on a camera lets a photographer choose the most appropriate field of view when taking a picture, the dramatically different viewpoints offered by different telescopes can offer complementary data to scientists studying astronomical objects which cover an extended area of the sky.

If the stars cocooned in Thackeray's Globules are still gestating, then the stars of cluster IC 2948, embedded within the nebula, are their older siblings. Still young in stellar terms, at just a few million years old, these stars shine brightly, and their ultraviolet radiation provides much of the energy that lights up the nebula. These glowing nebulae are relatively short-lived in astronomical terms (typically a few million years), meaning that the Lambda Centauri Nebula will eventually fade away as it loses both its gas and its supply of ultraviolet radiation.

Note

[1] This image was produced as part of the ESO Cosmic Gems programme. This is a new initiative to produce images of interesting, intriguing or visually attractive objects using ESO telescopes, for the purposes of education and public outreach. The programme makes use of small amounts of observing time, combined with otherwise unused time on the telescopes' schedules so as to minimise the impact on science observations. All data collected are also made available to astronomers through ESO's science archive.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Southern Observatory - ESO. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Southern Observatory - ESO. "An angry bird in the sky: Lambda Centauri Nebula." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110921075418.htm>.
European Southern Observatory - ESO. (2011, September 21). An angry bird in the sky: Lambda Centauri Nebula. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110921075418.htm
European Southern Observatory - ESO. "An angry bird in the sky: Lambda Centauri Nebula." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110921075418.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

AFP (Sep. 17, 2014) — NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX on Tuesday to build America's next spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2017, opening the way to a new chapter in human spaceflight. Duration: 01:13 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) — Numerous residents along the East Coast reported seeing a bright meteor flash through the sky Sunday night. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Picks Boeing and SpaceX to Ferry Astronauts

NASA Picks Boeing and SpaceX to Ferry Astronauts

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — NASA is a giant step closer to launching Americans again from U.S. soil. It has announced it has picked Boeing and SpaceX to transport astronauts to the International Space Station in the next few years. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins