The eyes on the Lobster Nebula
The set of gas clouds visible in this image form huge stellar incubator named Lobster Nebula, known as Gum56 and it shows piles of just born hot stars. Obtained with the VLT Survey Telescope, this could be the sharpest picture ever produced of this object.
The brilliant tangle of clouds of gas that can be seen in this image form an enormous stellar incubator known as the Lobster Nebula and it is another success for the VLT Survey Telescope (VST), the largest wide-field telescope ever made, the result of collaboration between INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Capodimonte and ESO. The image immortalized by VST should in fact be the sharpest image ever obtained of this object, in which one can see piles of newborn hot stars enclosed by the clouds that form the nebula.
At about 6000 light years from Earth in the Scorpio’s constellation, the nebula, officially known as IC 4628, is a large region rich in gas and piles of obscuring dust. These clouds of gas are star-forming regions that produce very hot young stars and diamonds. In visible light, these stars appear white in color blue, but also emit intense radiation in other parts of the spectrum, especially in the ultraviolet.
This is ultraviolet light produced by stars that shines gas. The radiation rips by hydrogen atoms of the electrons, which then recombine and release energy in the form of light. Each chemical element emits light of a characteristic color during the process and for hydrogen the predominant color is red. IC 4628 is an example of HII region (“aitch-second” or ionized hydrogen).
The Lobster Nebula spans about 250 light years and covers an area of sky equivalent to four times that of the full Moon. Despite the huge size has often been neglected by the observers, both because of its weakness is because most of the light is emitted at wavelengths at which the human eye is not sensitive. The nebula is also known as Gum 56, named after astronomer Colin Australian Gum who published a catalog of HII regions in 1955.
In the last few million years this region of the sky has produced new stars both single and in clusters. A star cluster highly scattered, Collinder 316, covers much of this: it is part of an association even bigger stars very warm and bright. There are visible some superior facilities and dark cavity, where the interstellar matter was swept away by powerful winds generated by nearby hot stars.
The images so sharp the VLT have been further enhanced to bring out the colors by adding more high-quality images obtained with various filters by Martin Pugh, an amateur astronomer from Australia looking very proficient using telescopes 32 and 13 centimeters in diameter.
The photograph is part of a public survey detailing a very large part of the Milky Way known as VPHAS + that harnesses the power of the VST to try new objects as young stars and planetary nebulae. This survey will also provide the best images ever obtained of many other regions of star formation glowing like the one shown here.
The VST is a survey telescope wide field, from 2.6 meters in diameter and with a field of view of about 1 degree – twice the diameter of the full moon. The VST program is a joint venture between the INAF – Osservatorio di Capodimonte, Italy and ESO. The master 268 megapixels – OmegaCAM – at the heart of the instrument is designed to provide high-quality images of the sky very quickly. The VST is the largest telescope in the world designed exclusively for continuity observed in the sky in visible light, and complements the infrared telescope to survey, VISTA, which is also located at Paranal.