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Thursday, September 15, 2011

NGC 1999 captured with the NSF's Mayall 4-meter Telescope

NGC 1999 captured with the NSF's Mayall 4-meter Telescope
Click on the image for full resolution (2.5 MB)

This wide-field panorama of star formation was captured with the National Science Foundation's Mayall 4-meter telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona. Located in the constellation of Orion (the Hunter), the image show a portion of one of Orion's giant molecular clouds (known as "Orion A") where new stars are forming. The bright object in the bottom-left corner is the reflection nebula NGC 1999, which contains the young star V380 Orionis. A small, triangle shaped patch of dusty material is seen in silhouette against the reflection nebula. NGC 1999 lies at the center of a network of nebulous filaments which billow out and away like the spokes of a bicycle wheel. Powerful jets of gas are often the first visible manifestations of the birth of young stars. These jets punch holes through the opaque clouds in which the star is formed, holes through which the light of the new-born stars can escape to produce what are known as reflection nebulae. Several such nebulae are seen in this image. Outflowing jets from young stars also power luminous shock waves known as Herbig-Haro (HH) objects, which move through the surrounding gas at speeds of up to hundreds of kilometers per second (over 100,000 miles an hour). As these shock waves ram their surroundings, they heat up bow-shaped nebulae of glowing plasma. This image shows dozens of such objects. Many other smaller nebulous patches in this image mark small reflection nebulae, Herbig-Haro objects, and stellar jets. The rich detail in this image reveals one of the most fascinating areas of the night sky.
The full resolution image weighs 2.5 MB, so please be patient when downloading!
Credit: Z. Levay (STScI/AURA/NASA), T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage) and H. Schweiker (NOAO/AURA/NSF)

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