Friday, July 1, 2011

Glowing Emerald Nebula

Named RCW 120, this region of hot gas and glowing dust can be found in the murky clouds encircled by the tail of the constellation Scorpius. The ring of dust actually is glowing in infrared colors that our eyes cannot see, but come to life when viewed by Spitzer's infrared detectors. At the center of this ring are two giant stars whose intense ultraviolet light created a bubble, though they blend in with other stars when viewed in infrared.

Spitzer has found that such bubbles are common and can be found around O stars throughout our Milky Way galaxy. The small objects at the lower right area of the image may themselves be similar regions seen at much greater distances across the galaxy.

Rings like this are so common in Spitzer's observations that astronomers have even enlisted the help of the public to help them find and catalog them all. Anyone interested in joining the search as a citizen scientist can visit "The Milky Way Project," part of the "Zooniverse" of public astronomy projects, at The Milky Way Project.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


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