Where In The Universe #56

It’s Wednesday (already?!) so that means its time for another “Where In The Universe” challenge to test your visual knowledge of the cosmos. This week’s image was submitted by UT reader Rob Bowman, and Rob is hoping to stump everyone this week. Try to guess/name where in the Universe this image is from, and give yourself extra points if you can name the spacecraft responsible for the image. Make your guess and post a comment, but please no links to the answer. Check back sometime on Thursday to find the answer and see how you did. Good luck!

UPDATE: The answer has now been posted below.

Rob certainly chose wisely with this image, as almost everything about the life cycle of stars is right here. This is a giant galactic nebula, NGC 3603, taken with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 on board Hubble that was just returned back to Earth from the servicing mission. There is a lot going on in this image, as it captures various stages of the star life cycle in one single view. To the upper left of center is the evolved blue supergiant called Sher 25. The star has a unique circumstellar ring of glowing gas that is a galactic twin to the famous ring around the supernova 1987A.

The grayish-bluish color of the ring and the bipolar outflows (blobs to the upper right and lower left of the star) indicates the presence of processed (chemically enriched) material. Near the center of the view is a so-called starburst cluster dominated by young, hot Wolf-Rayet stars and early O-type stars.

A torrent of ionizing radiation and fast stellar winds from these massive stars has blown a large cavity around the cluster. The most spectacular evidence for the interaction of ionizing radiation with cold molecular-hydrogen cloud material are the giant gaseous pillars to the right of the cluster. These pillars are sculptured by the same physical processes as the famous pillars Hubble photographed in the M16 Eagle Nebula.

Dark clouds at the upper right are so-called Bok globules, which are probably in an earlier stage of star formation. To the lower left of the cluster are two compact, tadpole-shaped emission nebulae. Similar structures were found by Hubble in Orion, and have been interpreted as gas and dust evaporation from possibly protoplanetary disks (proplyds). This true-color picture was taken on March 5, 1999.

Thanks to Rob Bowman for submitting this image – particularly timely because of the Hubble Servicing mission that was completed last week.

Check back next week for another WITU Challenge!

26 Replies to “Where In The Universe #56”

  1. This looks like an open cluster, somewhere, and the photo smells Hubble all over. That’s it from my part, I’m afraid.

  2. This is so easy. It is located in the banner of Phil’s original blog. 😀

    Seriously, this is a really wonderful piece of the sky taken by the Hubble. I forget the name. I think it’s located in one of the satellite, if I’m not mistaken.

  3. It’s by the Hubble, and is of a galactic cluster (I don’t know which, but is probably an NGC).

    An outstanding image which is also a tribute to the instrument which took it, the now retired WFPC2.

  4. I have really no idea except for my guess that it is a Hubble image and most probably a composite as well…But it is a definite awesome image…. 🙂

  5. Nebula NGC 3606 it is. It is a Hubble image. Nice blue giant blazing away there surrounded by stellar birth pillars.

  6. NGC 3603 Emission nebula about 20 thousand light years away. It is a Hubble image

  7. It’s a “starburst” region in our own Galaxy – it shows stars of all ages. It’s similar to the “Pillars of Creation” in the Eagle Nebula, suggesting similar forces at work. It has the distinct look of one of those gorgeous Hubble mosaics, with three tiles missing in one corner. Heh, I know what it is…..

  8. Plenty of you on the right track! Anyone know what’s particularly interesting about one of the stars in the image?

  9. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured this stunning true-color picture of the giant galactic nebula NGC 3603 on March 5, 1999 with its Wide Field Planetary Camera 2.

    This single view nicely illustrates the entire stellar life cycle of stars, starting with the Bok globules and giant gaseous pillars, followed by circumstellar disks, and progressing to evolved massive stars in the young starburst cluster. The blue supergiant with its ring and bipolar outflow marks the end of the life cycle.

  10. @ Rob_Bowman, could the star to which you are referring to be Sher 25, the ‘star with a ring’ and ‘a bipolar outflow ‘ mentioned above? Many papers on this Luminous Blue Variable (LBV) have been published over the last few years. Some believe this star could give Eta Carinae a run for the money as the next SN in the Milky Way Galaxy. The progenitor of SN 1987A was an LBV too 🙂

  11. This IS NGC 3603 located between the constellations Centaurus and Carina in the southern Hemisphere.

    RA: 11H 15.521
    DEC: -61degrees 18.823′
    Mag. 9.00
    Defuse Nebula.

  12. FVAS – was the last line of your comment an instruction? I have just been to see Angels & Demons so I’m in the mood to play around with some antimatter!

  13. @ gdigi, I think the feature to which you are referring to is one of the giant gaseous pillars being ionized and ablated by the bright stars in the nearby cluster. The image you have linked to is a later Hubble ACS image taken with a different filter set (BVz’). The pillar is more apparent in the Hubble WFPC2 image above (as well as Sher 25) 🙂

  14. Can someone describe the genesis of this image? Is this a smaller part of a larger nebula?

  15. Sorry, I suppose that was a tall order. I’ll just ask this;
    If the star burst globular cluster is made up of young O-type stars, many of them soon to be SN candidates like Sher 25, then can I presume that it and other globulars in the neighborhood created this gas/dust nebula from previous SN activity? Or was it the other way round? Also why is the nebula and cluster separated at what looks to be a fairly large distance?

  16. Never mind the last Q. I brought up the Wiki jpg image and it looks like the nebula does surround the cluster.

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