Narrowband imaging of the Lagoon nebula with the Gemini telescope

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Image and text credit

The imaging data explore the evolutionary relationship between the newborn stars and what are known as Herbig-Haro (HH) objects. HH objects form when young stars eject large amounts of fast-moving gas as they grow. This gas plows into the surrounding nebula, producing bright shock fronts that glow as the gas is heated by friction and surrounding gas is excited by the high-energy radiation of nearby hot stars. The researchers found a dozen of these HH objects in the image, spanning sizes that range from a few thousand astronomical units (about a trillion kilometers) to 1.4 parsecs (4.6 light-years), i.e. a little greater than the distance from the Sun to its nearest neighbor Proxima Centauri.

The picture is a composite of individual images obtained with two narrow-band optical filters sensitive to hydrogen (red) and ionized sulphur (green) emission, and another that transmits far red light (blue) and reveals in dramatic detail a glorious cloudscape of dust and gas surrounding this nursery of intermediate- and low-mass stars. Most of the newborn stars are imbedded in the tips of thick dusty clouds, which have the appearance of bright-rimmed pillars.

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