Reflections of The Soul – IC 1848 by Ken Crawford

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015


If we want to be technical, Lynds Bright Nebula 667 is the designation and it’s also known as Sharpless 2-199. Captured here is Collinder open clusters 34, 632 and 634 and small emission nebula 670 and 669 along with the entire cluster designation known as IC 1848. However, let’s forsake science for just a few moments and take a look at what it’s more commonly known as…. The “Soul Nebula”.

Situated along the Perseus arm of the Milky Way galaxy, the “Soul Nebula” reflects true inner beauty as well as a generous portion of hard science. Just this year, this giant cloud of molecular gas was the target study for triggered star formation. According to the work of Thompson (et al); “We have carried out an in-depth study of three bright-rimmed clouds SFO 11, SFO 11NE and SFO 11E associated with the HII region IC 1848, using observations carried out at the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) and the Nordic Optical Telescope (NOT), plus archival data from IRAS, 2MASS and the NVSS. We show that the overall morphology of the clouds is reasonably consistent with that of radiative-driven implosion (RDI) models developed to predict the evolution of cometary globules. There is evidence for a photoevaporated flow from the surface of each cloud and, based upon the morphology and pressure balance of the clouds, it is possible that D-critical ionisation fronts are propagating into the molecular gas. The primary O star responsible for ionising the surfaces of the clouds is the 06V star HD 17505. Each cloud is associated with either recent or ongoing star formation: we have detected 8 sub-mm cores which possess the hallmarks of protostellar cores and identify YSO candidates from 2MASS data. We infer the past and future evolution of the clouds and demonstrate via a simple pressure-based argument that the UV illumination may have induced the collapse of the dense molecular cores found at the head of SFO 11 and SFO 11E.”

With an estimated age of 1 Myr, IC 1848 is home to seventy-four sources of young stellar objects and all of them increase from outside of the rim to the center of the molecular cloud. The bright rim is an ionization front – the barrier between between the hot ionized gas of the HII region and the cold dense material of the molecular cloud where high mass stars are forming. Why is reflecting on the “Soul” so important? Probably because recent studies of meteorites have shown Fe isotopes present in the early solar nebula – suggesting our Sun was given birth in a region on high-mass star formation that experienced a supernova event. Bright-rimmed clouds like IC1848 replicate those conditions.

According to the work of J. Lett: “A bright IR source has been detected within a bright-rimmed dust cloud at the edge of the IC 1848 H II region. The source appears to be an early-type star with a circumstellar dust shell typical of protostars. This star is associated with the position of greatest CO excitation in a dense molecular cloud. The contours of CO emission correspond to those of the bright-rimmed dust cloud, showing that the star formed within the bright rim. Formaldehyde observations at 6 cm, 2 cm, and 2 mm are used to determine the density of the layer between the star and the ionized gas of the bright H..cap alpha.. rim. The location of this star, with respect to the dense molecular cloud which is subject to the external pressure of HII region, indicates the possible role of the expansion of IC 1848 in triggering star formation in dense regions at the perimeter of the H II region. The observed CO emission is used to determine the required luminosity of the embedded star. An early-type star of this luminosity should be detectable as a compact continuum source.”

Indeed, NGC 1848 is in the earliest stages of massive star birth, but it’s hidden behind its dust. According to Murry (et al): “We have completed a multiband (ultraviolet, optical, and near-infrared) study of the interstellar extinction properties of nine massive stars in IC 1805 and IC 1848, which are both part of Cas OB6 in the Perseus spiral arm. Our analysis includes determination of absolute extinction over the wavelength range from 3 ?m to 1250 Å. We have attempted to distinguish between foreground dust and dust local to Cas OB6. This is done by quantitatively comparing extinction laws of the least reddened sightlines (sampling mostly foreground dust) versus the most reddened sightlines (sampling a larger fraction of the dust in the Cas OB6 region). We have combined previous investigations to better understand the evolution of the interstellar medium in this active star forming region. We found no variation of extinction curve behavior between moderately reddened and heavily reddened Cas OB6 stars”.

Shrouded in mystery yet home to Globulettes – the seeds of brown dwarfs and free-floating planetary-mass objects. From the work of G. F. Gahm (et al): “Some H II regions surrounding young stellar clusters contain tiny dusty clouds, which on photos look like dark spots or teardrops against a background of nebular emission which we call “globulettes,” since they are much smaller than normal globules and form a distinct class of objects. Many globulettes are quite isolated and located far from the molecular shells and elephant trunks associated with the regions. Others are attached to the trunks (or shells), suggesting that globulettes may form as a consequence of erosion of these larger structures. Since the globulettes are not screened from stellar light by dust clouds farther in, one would expect photoevaporation to dissolve the objects. However, surprisingly few objects show bright rims or teardrop forms. We calculate the expected lifetimes against photoevaporation. These lifetimes scatter around 4 × 106 yr, much longer than estimated in previous studies and also much longer than the free-fall time. We conclude that a large number of our globulettes have time to form central low-mass objects long before the ionization front, driven by the impinging Lyman photons, has penetrated far into the globulette. Hence, the globulettes may be one source in the formation of brown dwarfs and free-floating planetary-mass objects in the galaxy.”

Apparently there’s a lot to contemplate when you look into the “Soul”….

Many thanks to AORAIA member Ken Crawford for this hugely inspiring image!

4 Responses

  1. BrianV says

    Looks a lot like the area round Caldwell 82 in Ara… a nice object for you lucky southerners.

    Lots to see here in these types of regions… emission and reflection nebulae as well as cluster of hot new stars. Great article, Tammy, thanks.

  2. Astrofiend says

    WOW! That is among the finest astronomical images I have ever seen. Aesthetically speaking, anyway. Top job Ken…

  3. Patreon
  4. JF says

    superb photo o.O !

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