The massive interstellar cloud Lupus 3 was captured with the US Department of Energy’s 570-megapixel dark energy camera at NSF NOIRLab’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The dazzling central region of this sprawling cloud reveals a pair of young stars bursting from their cocoons born of dust and gas to light up the reflection nebula known as Burns 149. These contrasting regions make this object a prime target for research into star formation.
The collision of energy and matter can lead to fantastical locations on Earth, such as glowing aurora borealis and powerful lightning displays. The same can be said of space, where energy from bright young stars and protostars floods their surroundings, lighting up vast clouds of interstellar dust and gas to create amazing objects known as reflection nebulae.
One amazing example of these forces of engagement is star formation Interstellar cloud Lupus 3, captured here with the US Department of Energy’s 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera at NSF’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. This nebula of stars is located about 500 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Wolf (The Wolf).
The two blue stars The center of the sprawling nebula, known as HR 5999 and HR 6000, is ablaze, illuminating nearby gas and dust, creating the bright blue reflection nebula Bernes 149. These stars originated from the dark nebula Lupus 3, which stretches like a blanket across the background of stars. However, this cloud is not just a coal-black cosmic bubble. It is home to a fleet of young stars known as T Tauri stars, which will eventually use Lupus 3 material to grow into full stars.
At a relatively young age of about 1 million years, HR 5999 and HR 6000 are the oldest stars in the Lupus 3 region. These stars are pre-main sequence stars, which means that although they are bright, they are not powered by nuclear fusion, such as Our sun. Instead, they are powered by gravity compressing and heating the matter inside. These sister stars blasted away nearby gas and dust, illuminating the remnants and creating the Burns 149 reflection nebula.
When the true nature of this nebula was first discovered, astronomers hoped that this nebula and similar regions would be useful in finding regions of recent or active star formation. That hunch proved correct, and Lupus 3 has since provided many insights into the early stages of star formation.
Lupus 3 is one of at least nine clouds within the massive Lupus cloud complex. Lupus 3 itself spans an area of sky roughly 24 the diameter of the Moon as seen from Earth. With a huge 2.2° field of view, the DECcam can capture massive objects like Lupus 3 in a single image. The coupling of the wide-field capabilities of the DECam and the light-gathering capabilities of the Víctor M. Blanco’s 4-meter wide, 4-meter mirror results in sharp, high-resolution images.
Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy
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