A sparkling, turbulent beauty: This telescopic image shows the Sharpless 29 interstellar cloud, where hot, young stars emerge. Astronomers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) photographed the star formation region in the Sagittarius, which is 5, 500 light-years distant, using the VLT Survey Telescope in Chile. In this telescope is a camera that can detect a wide wavelength range from ultraviolet to infrared. It is this very special feature that allows researchers to capture Sharpless 29 in all its glory.
In the interstellar cloud, the young stars emit very high-energy radiation. This in turn excites the electrons of hydrogen atoms in the gas cloud, whereupon they emit a characteristic red light. Smaller dust particles scatter and reflect the radiation of the young stars - in the picture the blue areas. The fine black lines that run through Sharpless 29 like small veins are created by absorption: here larger dust accumulations block the light on its way to us.
But the young, massive stars not only contribute to the coloration of the star formation region. They are burnt out quickly for cosmic periods and die with a supernova explosion that ejects dust and gas remnants into space. These remains will be swept away in tens of millions of years. What remains is an open star cluster that has dropped its red children's dress.
Photo: ESO / M. Grain knife display© science.de - Jana Burczyk