WISE Studies a Nebula
I’ve talked about star formation many times in this blog. It’s a fascinating topic and there are many, many star-forming regions in our galaxy (and others) for astronomers to study! The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) released a very cool infrared image of a star-forming cloud near the constellations of Monoceros and Canis Major called IC 2177, nicknamed the Seagull Nebula. The image is a mosaic — meaning that it’s made from several smaller images. Now, if this doesn’t look like a seagull, look at another orientation of the image.
Now, see the seagull? It’s a somewhat fanciful vision of a very complex place where stars are forming as we speak. And, the infrared view reveals the sites of the stellar nurseries. For example, astronomers can tell that the pink, oval-shaped region near the seagull’s eye (or lizard’s hip) is one such nursery. It’s called NGC 2327, and it contains a cluster of stars born about 1.5 million years ago. The center of the eye is the brightest and hottest of the newborn stars in the entire nebula. Its intense heat and radiation are warming the dust in the surrounding cloud and causing it to glow in infrared light. Infrared light is not blocked by dust or gas, which makes it a very useful tool for peeking into starbirth nurseries to understand the processes by which all stars — including our Sun — come into being.