Wow, what a gorgeous new image from the Herschel telescope – and what makes this especially stunning is that we’ve never seen these stars before! And these stars in the Rosette Nebula are huge, as each one is up to ten times the mass of our Sun. “High-mass star-forming regions are rare and further away than low-mass ones,” said Frédérique Motte, from the Laboratoire AIM Paris-Saclay, France. “So astronomers have had to wait for a space telescope like Herschel to reveal them.”
The Rosette Nebula is about 5,000 light years from Earth. Each color shown in the image represents a different temperature of dust, from –263 C (only 10C above absolute zero) in the red emission to –233 C in the blue.
The bright smudges are dusty cocoons hiding massive protostars, which will eventually become equally large stars, still about ten times the mass of the Sun. The small spots near the center and in the redder regions of the image are lower mass protostars, similar in mass to the Sun.
The image shows about half of the nebula and most of the Rosette cloud. The Herschel space observatory is able to peer through the dust and gas to see what is invisible to our eyes. The image was created using observations from Herschel’s Photoconductor Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS) and the Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE).
We can look forward to learning about the first scientific results from Herschel, presented by Dr. Motte, at a symposium hosted on May 4-7, 2010 in the Netherlands by the ESA, the ESLAB symposium.