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Posts Tagged ‘NGC 281’

‘Pacman’ Nebula Gets Some Teeth

October 27, 2011 Leave a comment

 Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

To visible-light telescopes, this star-forming cloud appears to be chomping through the cosmos, earning it the nickname the “Pacman” nebula, like the famous Pac-Man video game that debuted in 1980. When viewed in infrared light by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, the Pacman takes on a new appearance. In place of its typical, triangle-shaped mouth is a new set of lower, sharp-looking teeth. The Pacman is located at the top of the picture, taking a bite in the direction of the upper left corner.

The teeth are actually pillars where new stars may be forming. These structures were formed when radiation and winds from massive stars in a central cluster blew gas and dust away, leaving only the densest of material. The red dots sprinkled throughout the picture are thought to be the youngest stars, still forming in cocoons of dust.

The Pacman nebula, also called NGC 281, is located 9,200 light years away in the constellation Cassiopeia.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-334

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‘Pacman Nebula’ Lives the High Life

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/S.Wolk; IR: NASA/JPL/CfA/S.Wolk

Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/S.Wolk; IR: NASA/JPL/CfA/S.Wolk

High-mass stars are important because they are responsible for much of the energy pumped into our galaxy over its lifetime. Unfortunately, these stars are poorly understood because they are often found relatively far away and can be obscured by gas and dust. The star cluster NGC 281 is an exception to this rule. It is located about 9,200 light years from Earth and, remarkably, almost 1,000 light years above the plane of the Galaxy, giving astronomers a nearly unfettered view of the star formation within it.

NGC 281 is known informally as the “Pacman Nebula” because of its appearance in optical images. In optical images the “mouth” of the Pacman character appears dark because of obscuration by dust and gas, but in the infrared Spitzer image the dust in this region glows brightly.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/chandra/multimedia/pacman.html