Herschel's View of the W3/W4/W5 Complex

Nhsc_nhsc2017-002d_500

nhsc_nhsc2017-002d September 18th, 2017

Credit: ESA/Herschel/NASA/JPL-Caltech CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO; Acknowledgement: R. Hurt (JPL-Caltech)

The bubbles and wisps portrayed in this image by ESA's Herschel Space Observatory reveal great turmoil in the W3/W4/W5 complex of molecular clouds and star-forming regions. Located over 6000 light-years away, in the northern constellation Cassiopeia, it is one of the best regions in which to study the life and death of massive stars in our Milky Way galaxy.

Observing the sky at far-infrared and sub-millimetre wavelengths from 2009 to 2013, Herschel could catch the faint glow of dust grains interspersed in these clouds. Astronomers can use this glow to trace the otherwise dark gas where star formation unfolds.

The three regions that make up the complex W3, W4, and W5 owe their name to astronomer Gart Westerhout, who first identified them in the 1950s as the third, fourth and fifth sources of his survey of the Galaxy at radio wavelengths.

The bright, white region towards the top right of the image, hosting three brilliant spots, is W3, a giant molecular cloud containing one of the most active factories of massive stars in the outer Milky Way. For its star-making activity, the cloud draws from a total reservoir of raw material equivalent to several hundred thousand times the mass of our Sun.

The large, blue-greenish cavity to the lower left of W3 is W4, a bubble carved by winds and supernova explosions of the massive stars in IC1805, the star-forming region at its core.

The other large cavity, on the left side of the image, is W5, consisting of two adjacent bubbles powered by intense winds and explosions of the massive stars that are coming to life in several stellar nurseries nestled within this region.

Many seeds of new stars in this complex, especially in W3 and W5, have been observed along pillars, edges, and other features that are being sculpted in the cloud material by the mighty effects of nearby massive stars. This suggests that each generation of stars is triggering the formation of the next one.

While these regions are prime locations to study the poorly understood processes that lead to the formation of massive stars, they also host large amounts of young, low-mass stars, providing astronomers with an extraordinary laboratory to investigate the full complexity of star formation in the Milky Way.

This two-colour image combines Herschel observations at 70 microns (cyan) and 100 microns (orange), and spans about 8.4 by 2.9; north is up and east to the left.

Image Source: /image/nhsc/nhsc2017-002d

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

Image Use Policy: Public Domain

Image Details

Image Type
Observation
Object Name
W3 W4 W5

Distance

Universescale1
6,000 light years
Nhsc_nhsc2017-002d_128
 

Position Details

Position (GAL)
RA = 9h 35m 60.0s
DEC = 0° 0’ 0.0”
Orientation
North is up
Field of View
8.4 x 6.0 degrees
Constellation
Hydra
Nhsc_nhsc2017-002d_1280
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ID
nhsc2017-002d
Subject Category
Subject Name
W3, W4, W5
Credits
ESA/Herschel/NASA/JPL-Caltech CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO; Acknowledgement: R. Hurt (JPL-Caltech)
Lightyears
6,000
Redshift
Reference Url
/image/nhsc/nhsc2017-002d
Type
Observation
Image Quality
Good
Distance Notes
Facility
Instrument
Color Assignment
Band
Bandpass
Central Wavelength
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
GAL
Equinox
2000
Reference Value
144.0, 0.0
Reference Dimension
9505, 6750
Reference Pixel
-3994.5, 636.5
Scale
-8.88888888888900e-04, 8.88888888888900e-04
Rotation
-0
Coordinate System Projection:
CAR
Quality
Full
FITS Header
Notes
coordinates in not widely supported GAL format
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
Public Domain
Publisher
NASA Herschel Science Center
Publisher ID
nhsc
Resource ID
Resource URL
/image/nhsc/nhsc2017-002d
Related Resources
Metadata Date
2017-09-18T15:59:33Z
Metadata Version
1.1
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Detailed color mapping information coming soon...

 

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Universescalefull
6,000 light years