Sunday, February 3, 2013

Fire in the dark clouds

The Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) in Chile offers a beautiful view of clouds of cosmic dust in the group Orion. In observable light, this dense interstellar cloud appears dark and solid. The LABOCA camera on APEX, however, can detect the heat radiation emitted by dust and so do the hideouts of the just emerging star locate. One of these dark clouds is not what it seems.

Dense clouds of cosmic gas and dust in space are the birthplaces of new stars. In visible light, the dust appears dark and opaque so that it hides the stars behind. 

The darkening of the star's light is so strong that the astronomer William Herschel thought he had it entirely to do with a region of sky free of stars, as he observed in 1774 such a dark cloud in the constellation Scorpius. "This is truly a hole in the sky," he is reported to have said.

To understand the genesis of stars, they require telescopes astronomers who observe at longer wavelengths: for example, in the submillimeter range, where the dark dust grains themselves to absorb light rather than light. APEX on the Chajnantor plateau in the Chilean Andes, is the largest single-Submillimeterteleskop in the southern hemisphere and is ideal for astronomers who want to study the birth of stars so.

The Orion molecular cloud complex is located at a distance of 1500 light years in the constellation Orion. It is the closest star-forming region where massive stars are formed, and a treasure chest full of luminous mist, dark clouds and young stars. The new image shows a part of the huge complex in visible light in combination with a false color image of APEX data in bright orange so that it almost looks as the dark clouds stood in flames. The brightest knot in the APEX image appears in the visible region often extremely dark. In the submillimeter range betray So the dense clouds, which absorb visible light, and where there may be just stars form.

The bright area below the image center is the nebula NGC 1999th In the visible spectrum here blue starlight reflected from dust clouds - we see a so-called reflection nebula. Most of this energy light comes from the young star V380 Orionis [1] , which is located inside the nebula. In the center of the nebula we see a dark spot that occurs in a known picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, the NASA / ESA clearer in appearance.

Often, such a dark spot is an indication of a dark cloud of cosmic dust, which swallowed the light from stars behind her and fog areas. In the image shown here is noticeable, however, that the stain is really dark and the APEX-wavelength range. The APEX data enabled the astronomers say together with infrared observations of other telescopes, an astounding discovery: In the dark spot is believed to be a hole or cavity in the cloud, which was eroded by the stellar winds from star V380 Orionis. We see here that is actually a "hole in the sky"!

The dimensions shown in the sky region are located about two degrees south of the known great Orion Nebula (Messier 42), which is at the top of the wide-field image to see the data from the Digitized Sky Survey in visible light.

Data used for the image APEX observations were carried out under the direction of Thomas Stanke of the ESO, by Tom Megeath by the University of Toledo in the U.S. and by Amy Stutz from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg. APEX is a joint project of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR), the Onsala Space Observatory (Onsala Space Observatory, OSO) and ESO, which is also responsible for the operation of the telescope.

[1] V380 Orionis has a surface temperature of about 10,000 degrees Kelvin (the value in Celsius is almost the same) and is almost twice as hot as our sun. The mass of V380 Orionis is about 3.5 solar masses.

For more information
The ESO (European Southern Observatory) is the leading European organization for astronomical research and the most productive astronomical observatory in the world. It is supported by its 15 member countries. Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom The ESO allows astronomers to research by designing powerful ground-based telescopes, construction and operation. Also in promoting international cooperation in the field of astronomy, the organization plays a major role. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope (VLT), the world's astronomical observatory in the range of visible light and two telescopes for sky surveys: VISTA, the largest survey telescope in the world works in the infrared, while the VLT Survey Telescope (VST ) for heaven designed to exclusively in the visible light. ESO is the European partner for the construction of the telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. Currently being developed by an ESO telescope with a large diameter of 39 meters for observations in the visible and infrared light, which will be once the largest optical telescope in the world: the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).

The English translations of ESO Press Releases are a service of the ESO Science Outreach Network (ESON), an international network of astronomical public relations, in which scientists and science communicators from all ESO Member States (and other countries) are represented. German nodes of the network are the home of Astronomy in Heidelberg.

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