Inside the Dark Heart of the Eagle

Nhsc_nhsc2009-022a_1024

nhsc_nhsc2009-022a December 16th, 2009

Credit: ESA / SPIRE / PACS / P. Andr (CEA Saclay)

An unseen stellar nursery comes into view in this Herschel image. Some 700 newly-forming stars are estimated to be crowded into these colourful filaments of dust. The complex is part of a mysterious ring of stars called Goulds Belt.

This image shows a dark cloud 1000 light-years away in the constellation Aquila, the Eagle. It covers an area 65 light-years across and is so shrouded in dust that no previous infrared satellite has been able to see into it. Now, thanks to Herschels superior sensitivity at the longest wavelengths of infrared, astronomers have their first picture of the interior of this cloud.

It was taken on 24 October 2009 using two of Herschels instruments: the Photodetector Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS) and the Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE). The two bright regions are areas where large newborn stars are causing hydrogen gas to shine.

Embedded within the dusty filaments are 700 condensations of dust and gas that will eventually become stars. Astronomers estimate that about 100 are protostars, celestial objects in the final stages of formation. Each one just needs to ignite nuclear fusion in its core to become a true star. The other 600 objects are insufficiently developed to be considered protostars, but these too will eventually become another generation of stars.

This cloud is part of Goulds Belt, a giant ring of stars that circles the night sky the Solar System just happens to lie near the centre of the belt. For more than a hundred years, astronomers have puzzled over the origin of this ring, which is tilted to the Milky Way by 20. The first to notice this unexpected alignment, in the mid-19th century, was Englands John Herschel, the son of William, after whom ESAs Herschel telescope is named. But it was Boston-born Benjamin Gould who brought the ring to wider attention in 1874.

Goulds Belt supplies bright stars to many constellations such as Orion, Scorpius and Crux, and conveniently provides nearby star-forming locations for astronomers to study. Observing these stellar nurseries is a key programme for Herschel, which aims to uncover the demographics of star formation and its origin, or in other words, the quantities of stars that can form and the range of masses that such newborn stars can possess. Apart from this region of Aquila, Herschel will target 14 other star-forming regions as part of the Goulds Belt Key Programme.

Image Source: http://www.herschel.caltech.edu/index.php?SiteSection=ImageGallery&ViewImage=nhsc2009-022a

Curator: NASA Herschel Science Center, Pasadena, CA, USA

Image Use Policy: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/imagepolicy/

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Image Details

Image Type
Observation
Object Name
Gould's Belt
Subject - Milky Way
Nebula » Type » Star Formation

Distance

Universescale1
1,000 light years
Nhsc_nhsc2009-022a_128
 

Position Details

Position
RA = 18h 29m 2.2s
DEC = -2° 47’ 33.5”
Orientation
North is up
Field of View
4.2 x 4.2 degrees
Constellation
Serpens

Color Mapping

  Telescope Spectral Band Wavelength
Arrow_left_blue Herschel Infrared 70.0 µm
Arrow_left_green Herschel Infrared 160.0 µm
Arrow_left_red Herschel Infrared 250.0 µm
Spectrum_ir1
Arrow_top_blue
Arrow_top_green
Arrow_top_red
Nhsc_nhsc2009-022a_1280
×
ID
nhsc2009-022a
Subject Category
B.4.1.2  
Subject Name
Gould's Belt
Credits
ESA / SPIRE / PACS / P. Andr (CEA Saclay)
Type
Observation
Image Quality
Good
Distance Notes
Facility
Herschel, Herschel, Herschel
Instrument
Color Assignment
Blue, Green, Red
Band
Infrared, Infrared, Infrared
Bandpass
Central Wavelength
70000, 160000, 250000
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
Equinox
J2000
Reference Value
2.772590E+02, -2.792639E+00
Reference Dimension
2530, 2530
Reference Pixel
1310.5, 1323.5
Scale
-1.66666700000000e-03, 1.66666700000000e-03
Rotation
0
Coordinate System Projection:
TAN
Quality
FITS Header
Notes
Creator (Curator)
NASA Herschel Science Center
URL
http://www.herschel.caltech.edu/
Name
Email
Telephone
Address
1200 E. California Blvd.
City
Pasadena
State/Province
CA
Postal Code
91125
Country
USA
Rights
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/imagepolicy/
Publisher
Publisher ID
nhsc
Resource ID
Resource URL
/image/nhsc/nhsc2009-022a
Related Resources
Metadata Date
2018-01-19T01:43:32Z
Metadata Version
1.1
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Detailed color mapping information coming soon...

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Universescalefull
1,000 light years