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The Smoky Pink Core of the Omega Nebula

January 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Credit:  ESO

Credit: ESO

A new image of the Omega Nebula, captured by ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), is one of the sharpest of this object ever taken from the ground. It shows the dusty, rose-coloured central parts of this famous stellar nursery and reveals extraordinary detail in the cosmic landscape of gas clouds, dust and newborn stars.

The colourful gas and dark dust in the Omega Nebula serve as the raw materials for creating the next generation of stars. In this particular section of the nebula, the newest stars on the scene — dazzlingly bright and shining blue-white — light up the whole ensemble. The nebula’s smoky-looking ribbons of dust stand in silhouette against the glowing gas. The dominant reddish colours of this portion of the cloud-like expanse, arise from hydrogen gas, glowing under the influence of the intense ultraviolet rays from the hot young stars.

The Omega Nebula goes by many names, depending on who observed it when and what they thought they saw. These other titles include the Swan Nebula, the Horseshoe Nebula and even the Lobster Nebula. The object has also been catalogued as Messier 17 (M17) and NGC 6618. The nebula is located about 6500 light-years away in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer). A popular target of astronomers, this illuminated gas and dust field ranks as one of the youngest and most active stellar nurseries for massive stars in the Milky Way.

Full Story: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1201/

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First Four Exoplanets of 2012 Discovered

January 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Only four days into the New Year and the first four exoplanets of 2012 have been spotted orbiting four distant stars.

All four alien worlds are known as “hot Jupiters” — large gas giant planets orbiting very close to their stars. Their orbits are aligned just right with the Earth so that when they pass in front of their parent stars, they slightly dim the starlight from view.

As exoplanets pass in front of their stars, a small dip in star brightness may be detected. This detection method is known as the “transit method.” This is in addition to the “radial velocity method,” when the gravitational pull of an exoplanet causes its parent star to wobble slightly.

However, this most recent discovery doesn’t come from NASA’s Kepler space telescope team or any other space telescope, it comes from a ground-based telescope system maintained by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Full Story: http://news.discovery.com/space/first-four-exoplanets-of-2012-discovered-120104.html