Image of the Day: The Mystery of Star Birth


Starting with a wide view of the central part of our Milky Way galaxy we zoom in on the tiny constellation of Corona Australis (the Southern Crown), located beside the larger constellation of Sagittarius and towards the centre of our own galaxy. Zooming in more closely this faint constellation, visible only from dark sites, reveals many interesting features including a spectacular dust cloud about 8 light-years across. The bluish fuzzy spot is a beautiful reflection nebula in the star-forming region around the star R Coronae Australis, captured in great detail by the Wide Field Imager (WFI), on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile.
The huge dust cloud in which the reflection nebula is embedded is here shown in impressively fine detail. The subtle colours and varied textures of the dust clouds make this image resemble an impressionist painting. A prominent dark lane crosses the image from the centre to the bottom left. Here the visible light emitted by the stars that are forming inside the cloud is completely absorbed by the dust. These objects could only be detected by observing at longer wavelengths, by using a camera that can detect infrared radiation.
R Coronae Australis itself is not visible to the unaided eye, but the tiny, tiara-shaped constellation in which it lies is easily spotted from dark sites due to its proximity on the sky to the larger constellation of Sagittarius and the rich star clouds towards the centre of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.
Via ESO

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