New Stars Being Formed in the Prawn Nebula

The Prawn Nebula

New Stars Being Formed: The Prawn Nebula

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to witness new stars being formed?  This image recently released by the European Southern Observatory, gives us a stunning new view of a stellar nursery.  Named the Prawn Nebula or IC 4628, this immense region of space is loaded with all the ingredients needed to form new stars – and it’s happening right before our very eyes!

The Prawn Nebula is located about 6,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Scorpius (the Scorpion).  It is about 250 light years across and it covers an area of sky the size of about 4 full Moons.  If you think about it, that’s an incredibly large area of the night sky and you’re probably wondering why you can’t see it.  Well, it turns out that most of the light that’s emitted from this nebula is in wavelengths that cannot be detected by the naked eye.

Thanks to the VLT Survey Telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile, the beautiful detail of this faint nebula can be seen.  New stars, which are brilliant blue-white in color, can be found in and around the dark clouds of densely packed dust.  These young stars are bathing the area around them with intense ultraviolet radiation.  This is what causes the entire nebula to glow.  In this case, the majority of the glowing gas in the region is hydrogen which is characteristically red in color.

Image Credit:  European Southern Observatory

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