Star forming filament Lupus 3

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Image credit: ESO

An evocative new image from ESO shows a dark cloud where new stars are forming, along with a cluster of brilliant stars that have already emerged from their dusty stellar nursery. The new picture was taken with the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile and is the best image ever taken in visible light of this little-known object. In the centre of this new image there is a dark column resembling a cloud of smoke. Within this column shines a small group of brilliant stars. At first glance these two features could not be more different, but they are in fact closely linked. The cloud contains huge amounts of cool cosmic dust and is a nursery where new stars are being born. It is likely that the Sun formed in a similar star formation region more than four billion years ago. This cloud is known as Lupus 3 and it lies about 600 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Scorpius. As the denser parts of such clouds contract under the effects of gravity they heat up and start to shine. At first this radiation is blocked by the dusty clouds and can only be seen by telescopes observing at longer wavelengths than visible light, such as the infrared. But as the stars get hotter and brighter their intense radiation and stellar winds gradually clear the clouds around them until they emerge in all their glory.

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