star forming regions

30 Doradus, located in the heart of the Tarantula nebula, is the brightest star-forming region in our galactic neighborhood. The nebula resides 170,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Links to very large images in comments.


The Lagoon Nebula, often noted as Messier 8, is a giant interstellar cloud located between 4,000 and 6,000 light years from Earth. It is primarily composed on Hydrogen gas that is ionised by a nearby star called Herschel 36. It is an emission Nebula, which means it contains a star-forming region. There’s not really much else to know besides it’s amazing appearance. ✨

NGC 660 is featured in this cosmic snapshot. Over 40 million light-years away and swimming within the boundaries of the constellation Pisces, NGC 660’s peculiar appearance marks it as a polar ring galaxy. A rare galaxy type, polar ring galaxies have a substantial population of stars, gas, and dust orbiting in rings strongly tilted from the plane of the galactic disk. The bizarre-looking configuration could have been caused by the chance capture of material from a passing galaxy by a disk galaxy, with the captured debris eventually strung out in a rotating ring. The violent gravitational interaction would account for the myriad pinkish star forming regions scattered along NGC 660’s ring. The polar ring component can also be used to explore the shape of the galaxy’s otherwise unseen dark matter halo by calculating the dark matter's gravitational influence on the rotation of the ring and disk. Broader than the disk, NGC 660’s ring spans over 50,000 light-years.

Image Credit & Copyright: CHART32 Team,Processing - Johannes Schedler

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M64: The Black Eye Galaxy : This big, bright, beautiful spiral galaxy is Messier 64, often called the Black Eye Galaxy or the Sleeping Beauty Galaxy for its heavy-lidded appearance in telescopic views. M64 is about 17 million light-years distant in the otherwise well-groomed northern constellation Coma Berenices. In fact, the Red Eye Galaxy might also be an appropriate moniker in this colorful composition. The enormous dust clouds obscuring the near-side of M64s central region are laced with the telltale reddish glow of hydrogen associated with star forming regions. But they are not this galaxys only peculiar feature. Observations show that M64 is actually composed of two concentric, counter-rotating systems. While all the stars in M64 rotate in the same direction as the interstellar gas in the galaxys central region, gas in the outer regions, extending to about 40,000 light-years, rotates in the opposite direction. The dusty eye and bizarre rotation is likely the result of a billion year old merger of two different galaxies. via NASA


The cosmic cloud of gas and dust is W33, a massive starforming complex some 13,000 light-years distant, near the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. So what are all those yellow balls? Citizen scientists of the web-based Milky Way Project found the features they called yellow balls as they scanned many Spitzer images and persistently asked that question of researchers. Now there is an answer. The yellow balls in Spitzer images are identified as an early stage of massive star formation. They appear yellow because they are overlapping regions of red and green, the assigned colors that correspond to dust and organic molecules known as PAHs at Spitzer wavelengths. Yellow balls represent the stage before newborn massive stars clear out cavities in their surrounding gas and dust and appear as green-rimmed bubbles with red centers in the Spitzer image. Of course, the astronomical crowdsourcing success story is only part of the Zooniverse. The Spitzer image spans 0.5 degrees or about 100 light-years at the estimated distance of W33.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Why do many galaxies appear as spirals? A striking example is M101, shown above, whose relatively close distance of about 27 million light years allows it to be studied in some detail. Observational evidence indicates that a close gravitational interaction with a neighboring galaxy created waves of high mass and condensed gas which continue to orbit the galaxy center. These waves compress existing gas and cause star formation. One result is that M101, also called the Pinwheel Galaxy, has several extremely bright star-forming regions (called HII regions) spread across its spiral arms. M101 is so large that its immense gravity distorts smaller nearby galaxies.

Object Names: M101, Pinwheel Galaxy

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Subaru Telescope (NAOJ), Hubble Space Telescope, European Southern Observatory

Procesing and Copyright: Robert Gendler

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Bright Spiral Galaxy M81 : One of the brightest galaxies in planet Earths sky is similar in size to our Milky Way Galaxy: big, beautiful M81. The grand spiral galaxy can be found toward the northern constellation of the Great Bear . This superbly detailed image reveals M81s bright yellow nucleus, blue spiral arms, tell tale pinkish star forming regions, and sweeping cosmic dust lanes with a scale comparable to the Milky Way. Hinting at a disorderly past, a remarkable dust lane actually runs straight through the disk, to the left of the galactic center, contrary to M81s other prominent spiral features. The errant dust lane may be the lingering result of a close encounter between between M81 and its smaller companion galaxy, M82. Scrutiny of variable stars in M81 has yielded one of the best determined distances for an external galaxy 11.8 million light-years. M81s dwarf companion galaxy Holmberg IX can be seen just above the large spiral. via NASA


NGC 7822 in Cepheus 

Hot, young stars and cosmic pillars of gas and dust seem to crowd into NGC 7822. At the edge of a giant molecular cloud toward the northern constellation Cepheus, the glowing star forming region lies about 3,000 light-years away. Within the nebula, bright edges and dark shapes stand out in this colorful skyscape.

The atomic emission is powered by energetic radiation from the central hot stars. Their powerful winds and radiation sculpt and erode the denser pillar shapes and clear out a characteristic cavity light-years across the center of the natal cloud. Stars could still be forming inside the pillars by gravitational collapse but as the pillars are eroded away, any forming stars will ultimately be cutoff from their reservoir of star stuff. This field of view spans over 40 light-years at the estimated distance of NGC 7822.

Two stars shine through the center of a ring of cascading dust in this image taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The star system is named DI Cha, and while only two stars are apparent, it is actually a quadruple system containing two sets of binary stars.

As this is a relatively young star system it is surrounded by dust. The young stars are molding the dust into a wispy wrap.

The host of this alluring interaction between dust and star is the Chamaeleon I dark cloud ‘” one of three such clouds that comprise a large star-forming region known as the Chamaeleon Complex. DI Cha’s juvenility is not remarkable within this region. In fact, the entire system is among not only the youngest but also the closest collections of newly formed stars to be found and so provides an ideal target for studies of star formation.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble andamp; NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt
Text credit: European Space Agency

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