NGC 3576, The Statue of Liberty Nebula

NGC 3576, The Statue of Liberty Nebula

NGC 3576 (also known as The Statue of Liberty Nebula and ESO 129-EN5) is a bright emission nebula about 100 light-years across, located some 9000 light-years away in the Sagittarius arm of our Milky Way in the constellation Carina.

This giant nebula of glowing gas is an H II region where stars are currently forming at a high rate. H II (H-two) regions are where stars are born from condensing clouds of hydrogen gas (they are named for the large amounts of ionized atomic hydrogen they contain.) These regions are characterized by hot, young, massive stars which emit large amounts of ultraviolet light and ionize the nebula.

Episodes of star formation during the last several million years are thought to contribute to the complex and suggestive shapes. Powerful winds from the nebula’s embedded, young, massive stars shape the looping filaments, while hydrogen, sulfur, and oxygen, energized by intense ultraviolet radiation, making the nebula glow. NGC 3576 also contains scattered small dark nebulae known as Bok Globules, which are very dense, opaque clouds of gas and dust, and potential sites for the formation of new stars.

Because NGC 3576 is very dense, many of the stars are hidden from view. A cluster of stars is visible in infrared observations, but not enough young, massive stars have been identified to explain the brightness of NGC 3576. Astronomers have found a large flow of ionized gas in radio observations and huge bubbles in optical images that extend out from the edge of the HII region. Taken with the X-ray data, this information hints that powerful winds are emerging from this hidden cluster.

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