This stunning visual image, captured with the Gemini South Telescope, looks like it’s ready to flutter off your screen. This seemingly faint object is a gas flow known as the Chamaeleon Infrared Nebula – so named because it is bright at some infrared wavelengths, although it can also be seen in visible light, as in this view. Hiding at the core of this reflection nebula, and in the center of this image is the Engine Nebula, a low-mass star (less massive than our Sun) obscured by a dark vertical stripe. Although this young star was hidden from view, this cold young star was emitting streams of fast-moving gas that carved a tunnel through the interstellar cloud from which the young star was formed. Infrared and visible light emitted by the star escapes along this tunnel and is scattered from its walls, creating the appearance of a weak reflection nebula.
The bright red object to the right of the image center indicates where some fast-moving gas streams after colliding with slow-moving gas in the nebula. It is known as a Herbig-Haro Object (HH) and has the designation HH 909A. Other Herbig-Haro objects are found along the star’s outflow axis beyond the edges of the image to the right and left.
Astronomers have suggested that the dark band at the center of the Infrared Chameleon Nebula is an oceanic disk – a reservoir of gas and dust orbiting the star. Stellar disks are usually associated with young stars and provide the materials needed to build planets. The reason the disc appears as a bar and not a circle in this image is that it’s edge on edge, only revealing one edge to observers here on Earth. Astronomers believe that the nebula’s central star is a young stellar body embedded within the disk.
The background blur, shown in blue in this image, reflects light from a nearby star that lies outside the frame.
The Chamaeleon Infrared Nebula is located within the larger Chamaeleon I dark cloud, which is adjacent to the Chamaeleon II and Chamaeleon III dark clouds. Together, these three dark clouds make up the Chamaeleon Complex, a large area of star formation that occupies almost the entire constellation of Chameleons in the southern sky.
The detail in this image is thanks to the southern version of the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrometer (GMOS), located atop Chile’s Cerro Passion in Gemini South, and is part of the Gemini International Observatory, a program of NSF NOIRLab. The GMOS has imaging capabilities in addition to being a spectrophotometer, which makes it a very versatile tool.
German NOIRLab instrument scientist Gimeno said: “GMOS-South is the ideal instrument for making this observation, due to its field of view, which can capture the entire nebula well, and because of its ability to capture emission from the nebula’s ionized gas.” .
Image: Hubble spots swirls of dust in the Flame Nebula
Presented by NOIRLab
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