GIANT LOOPS OF GAS bearing a striking resemblance to solar prominences are seen in this image of the nebula NGC 3582.
The loops are thought to have been ejected by dying stars, although new stars are also being born within this stellar nursery.
These energetic youngsters emit intense ultraviolet radiation that makes the gas in the nebula glow, producing the fiery display shown here.
NGC 3582 is part of a large star-forming region in the Milky Way, called RCW 57, close to the central plane of the Milky Way.
The famous astronomers John Herschel first spotted this complex region of glowing gas and dark dust clouds in 1834, during his stay in South Africa.
Some of the stars forming in regions like NGC 3582 are much more massive than the Sun. These monster stars emit energy at prodigious rates and have very short lives that end in the stellar explosions called supernovae.
The material ejected from these explosions creates bubbles in the surrounding gas and dust. This is the probable cause of the loops visible in this picture.
Here’s a short video that takes you on a sweeping journey into NGC 3582:
The image was captured by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) La Silla Observatory in Chile.
It is a false-colour image made up of separate exposures taken through multiple filters. From the Wide Field Imager, data taken through a red filter are coloured in green and red, and data taken through a filter that isolates the red glow characteristic of hydrogen are also shown in red. Additional infrared data from the Digitised Sky Survey are shown in blue.
The image was processed by ESO using the data identified by amateur astronomer Joe DePasquale, from the United States, who participated in ESO’s Hidden Treasures 2010 astrophotography competition. The competition was organised by ESO in October-November 2010, for everyone who enjoys making beautiful images of the night sky using astronomical data obtained using professional telescopes.
ESO’s Hidden Treasures 2010 competition gave amateur astronomers the opportunity to search through ESO’s vast archives of astronomical data, hoping to find a well-hidden gem that needed polishing by the entrants.
More information: Hidden Treasures
Adapted from information issued by ESO, Digitised Sky Survey 2 and Joe DePasquale.
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