RCW 79, an emission nebula in Centaurus

 
RCW 79, an emission nebula in Centaurus

Image Credit: E. Churchwell (Univ. Wisconsin-Madison) et al., JPL-Caltech, NASA

RCW 79 is an emission nebula, a star-forming region of about 70 light-years across that lies some 17,200 light-years from Earth in the southern constellation of Centaurus.

This cosmic bubble of ionized hydrogen gas and warm dust has been blown over about one million years by the winds and radiation from hot young stars in its center, while the expanding nebula itself has triggered new star formation when the hot bubble expanded into the interstellar gas and dust around it. In fact, this penetrating infrared picture reveals groups of new stars as yellowish points scattered along the bubble’s edge.

RCW 79 has spawned at least two groups of new stars along the edge of the large bubble. The smaller, very bright bubble in the lower left corner shows an apparent burst of star formation in it. Another group of baby stars appears near the opening at the top, to the right of the bubble’s center.

The young stars within RCW79 radiate ultraviolet light that excites molecules of dust within the bubble. This causes the dust grains to emit infrared light that is detected by Spitzer and seen here as the extended reddish features.

This false-color image is taken with the Spitzer Space Telescope.

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