Chasing Chickens in the Lambda Centauri Nebula

Wise_wise2010-046_500

WISE_WISE2010-046 December 21st, 2010

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

This image from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, is an infrared view of a star forming cloud in our Galaxy called the Lambda Centauri nebula, also known as the Running Chicken nebula. The nebula, cataloged as IC 2944, is about 5,800 light-years from Earth and home to a new cluster of stars born from the cloud nearly 8 million years ago. The hottest members of the cluster produce enough ultraviolet radiation and strong winds to both ionize and excavate the cloud. The ionized gas glows in visible light, but in infrared light we see the dust in the cloud warmed by the very same radiation. The dust glowing red is the coolest material seen in this image and is composed of metallic dust grains. The greenish components in the image are warmer dust grains composed of smog-like materials. The large green ring-like structure near the middle of the image is some 77 light-years across and is formed by the combined winds of the stars in the clusters blowing back the material from which they were born.

The nebula gets its common name from its appearance in some visible light images to a running chicken. It is also called the Lambda Centauri nebula because it appears to surround the bright star Lambda Centauri. Lambda Centauri is one of the brightest stars in the constellation Centaurus. The brightest stars in the sky are named based on the constellation they are in. For example, the brightest star in the constellation Centaurus is Alpha Centauri, the next brightest star in that constellation is Beta Centauri, and so forth. Lambda Centauri is therefore the 11th brightest star in the constellation Centaurus. It is not so bright in infrared light, however. In this WISE image, it appears as the dimmer, lower, and bluer of two bright stars in the upper right-hand corner of the image. It is a blue giant star about 410 light-years away. So, in fact, Lambda Centauri is much closer to Earth than IC 2944 and has nothing to do with the nebula at all.

This image is a four-color composite created by all four of WISEs infrared detectors. Color is representational: blue and cyan represent infrared light observed at wavelengths of 3.4 and 4.6 microns, which is mostly light from stars. Green and red represent light observed at 12 and 22 microns, which is mostly light from warm dust, with red indicating temperatures lower than green.

Image Source: /image/WISE/WISE2010-046

Curator: Spitzer Science Center, Pasadena, CA, USA

Image Use Policy: Public Domain

Image Details

Image Type
Observation
Object Name
Lambda Centauri Nebula IC 2944
Subject - Milky Way
Nebula » Type » Star Formation
Nebula » Appearance » Emission
Nebula » Appearance » Dark » Bok Globule

Distance

Universescale1
6,500 light years
Wise_wise2010-046_128
 

Position Details

Position (ICRS)
RA = 11h 40m 11.9s
DEC = -63° 36’ 24.0”
Orientation
North is up
Field of View
1.4 x 1.4 degrees
Constellation
Centaurus

Color Mapping

  Telescope Spectral Band Wavelength
Arrow_left_blue WISE Infrared (Near-IR) 3.4 µm
Arrow_left_cyan WISE Infrared (Near-IR) 4.6 µm
Arrow_left_green WISE Infrared (Mid-IR) 12.0 µm
Arrow_left_red WISE Infrared (Mid-IR) 22.0 µm
Spectrum_ir1
Arrow_top_blue
Arrow_top_cyan
Arrow_top_green
Arrow_top_red
Wise_wise2010-046_1280
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ID
WISE2010-046
Subject Category
B.4.1.2.   B.4.2.1.   B.4.2.3.2.  
Subject Name
Lambda Centauri Nebula, IC 2944
Credits
NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
Lightyears
6,500
Redshift
Reference Url
/image/WISE/WISE2010-046
Type
Observation
Image Quality
Good
Distance Notes
Facility
WISE, WISE, WISE, WISE
Instrument
Color Assignment
Blue, Cyan, Green, Red
Band
Infrared, Infrared, Infrared, Infrared
Bandpass
Near-IR, Near-IR, Mid-IR, Mid-IR
Central Wavelength
3400, 4600, 12000, 22000
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
ICRS
Equinox
J2000
Reference Value
175.049484, -63.606667
Reference Dimension
3700, 3700
Reference Pixel
1653, 1653
Scale
-3.81944439141100e-04, 3.81944439141100e-04
Rotation
0
Coordinate System Projection:
SIN
Quality
Full
FITS Header
Notes
Creator (Curator)
Spitzer Science Center
URL
http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu
Name
Email
Telephone
Address
MS 220-6, 1200 E. California Blvd.
City
Pasadena
State/Province
CA
Postal Code
91125
Country
USA
Rights
Public Domain
Publisher
Publisher ID
WISE
Resource ID
Resource URL
/image/WISE/WISE2010-046
Related Resources
Metadata Date
2012-10-12 16:55:54 -0700
Metadata Version
1.1
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Detailed color mapping information coming soon...

 

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Universescalefull
6,500 light years