Categories: Astronomy

Beautiful Cosmic Barbeque Pit

A new infrared image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, shows a cosmic barbeque pit, full of PAHS. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE has been a busy spacecraft since its launch on Dec. 14, 2009. It has found asteroids and comets, and now has found a cosmic barbeque pit. Well, not really, but the green material in the cloud of gas and dust surrounding the Berkeley 59 cluster is from heated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, (PAHs) molecules that can be found on Earth in barbecue pits, exhaust pipes and other places where combustion has occurred. The “coals,” or the glowing red is warm dust heated by hot young stars within the nebula.

Red sources within the green nebula indicate a second generation of stars forming at the surface of the natal cloud, possibly as a consequence of heating and compression from the younger stars. A supernova remnant associated with this region, called NGC 7822, indicates that a massive star has already exploded, blowing the cloud open in a “champagne flow” and leaving behind this floral remnant. Blue dots sprinkled throughout are foreground stars in our Milky Way galaxy.

Berkeley 59 and NGC 7822 are located in the constellation of Cepheus at a distance of about 3,300 light-years from Earth.

PAHs are interesting because they are a candidate molecule linked to the earliest forms of life. They can can be found throughout the interstellar medium.

More info on WISE, and additional WISE images.

Source: JPL

Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004. She is the author of a new book on the Apollo program, "Eight Years to the Moon," which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible. Her first book, "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond.

Recent Posts

NASA is Building a Nuclear Reactor to Power Lunar and Martian Exploration!

NASA and the U.S. Dept. of Energy have come together to solicit design proposals for…

10 hours ago

InSight Peers Deep Below the Surface on Mars

The InSight lander has been on Mars, gathering data for a thousand days now, working…

1 day ago

Astronauts Took A Fly-around of the International Space Station. Here are Their Stunning Pictures

When astronauts left the International Space Station in early November to return home on the…

2 days ago

NASA Simulation Shows What Happens When Stars Get Too Close to Black Holes

What happens to a star when it strays too close to a monster black hole?…

2 days ago

The Parker Solar Probe is getting pelted by hypervelocity dust. Could they damage spacecraft?

There’s a pretty significant disadvantage to going really fast - if you get hit with…

2 days ago

The Decadal Survey is out! What new Missions and Telescopes are in the Works?

It’s that time again.  Once every ten years, the American astronomy community joins forces through…

2 days ago