Does Pacman have Teeth?

Wise_wise2011-029_500

WISE_WISE2011-029 October 27th, 2011

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

In visible light, the star-forming cloud catalogued as NGC 281 in the constellation of Cassiopeia appears to be chomping through the cosmos, earning it the nickname the Pacman nebula after the famous Pac-Man video game of the 1980s. However, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, observed the nebula in infrared light revealing a different view.

NGC 281 is a giant cloud of dust and gas located about 9,200 light-years away within our own Milky Way Galaxy, and spans about 130 light-years in space. Inside the cloud, a new cluster of stars is forming. This young cluster, called IC 1590, appears as a group of stars near the center of the red and green cloud in the upper portion of the image. Within the cluster there are several very massive stars, many times the mass of the Sun. These stars are also very hot and produce large amounts of ultraviolet radiation and blow strong winds. The radiation and winds erode the larger cloud from the inside out, giving it a shell-like appearance. The winds and radiation also heat the dust in the cloud, which then glows in infrared light. The wavelengths at which the dust glows depends on the temperatures.

The process of the erosion of the nebula by the young star cluster is thought to trigger additional formation of stars. Around the edges of NGC 281 are many long columns pointing toward the central star cluster, giving the appearance of the Pacman with teeth. These are parts of the cloud that are a bit more dense, and hence erode more slowly than the rest of the cloud. At the tips of these columns, the material may be compressed enough to set off the formation of new stars. Also, sprinkled around the images are several star-like objects that appear very red. These are likely baby stars in the early stages of formation. They are wrapped in cocoons of dust, which glow strongly in the longer wavelengths, giving them their red color in this image.

This image was made from observations by all four infrared detectors aboard WISE. Blue and cyan (blue-green) represent infrared light at wavelengths of 3.4 and 4.6 microns, which is primarily from stars, the hottest objects pictured. Green and red represent light at 12 and 22 microns, which is primarily from warm dust (with the green dust being warmer than the red dust).

Image Source: /image/WISE/WISE2011-029

Curator: Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, Berkeley, CA, USA

Image Use Policy: Pulic Domain

Image Details

Image Type
Observation
Object Name
NGC 281 Pacman Nebula
Subject - Milky Way
Nebula » Type » Star Formation

Distance

Universescale1
9,500 light years
Wise_wise2011-029_128
 

Position Details

Position (ICRS)
RA = 0h 54m 21.6s
DEC = 56° 47’ 42.3”
Orientation
North is 89.8° CCW
Field of View
1.3 x 1.3 degrees
Constellation
Cassiopeia

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_wise2011-029_1280
×
ID
WISE2011-029
Subject Category
B.4.1.2  
Subject Name
NGC 281, Pacman Nebula
Credits
NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
Lightyears
9,500
Redshift
Reference Url
/image/WISE/WISE2011-029
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
2000.0
Reference Value
13.58979795600, 56.79508591300
Reference Dimension
3300.00, 3300.00
Reference Pixel
936.91447116719, 1663.86388991949
Scale
-0.00038196867, 0.00038196867
Rotation
89.76250079753
Coordinate System Projection:
TAN
Quality
Full
FITS Header
Notes
World Coordinate System resolved using PinpointWCS 0.9.2 revision 218+ by the Chandra X-ray Center
Creator (Curator)
Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer
URL
http://wise.astro.ucla.edu
Name
Email
outreach@ssl.berkeley.edu
Telephone
Address
7 Gauss Way
City
Berkeley
State/Province
CA
Postal Code
94720
Country
USA
Rights
Pulic Domain
Publisher
Publisher ID
WISE
Resource ID
Resource URL
/image/WISE/WISE2011-029
Related Resources
Metadata Date
2012-10-10 18:51:17 -0700
Metadata Version
1.2
×

Detailed color mapping information coming soon...

 

×
Universescalefull
9,500 light years