An international team of astronomers using the HAWK-I camera attached to the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope captured this stunning deep infrared view of the Orion Nebula in 2016 showing an abundance of brown dwarfs and planetary-mass objects. The famous nebula stretches 24 light years across and even though it is about 1,350 light years from Earth it is easily visible to the unaided eye as the somewhat fuzzy “star” in the middle of Orion’s sword. Amelia Bayo, co-author of a paper discussing the HAWK-I view said “understanding how many low-mass objects are found in the Orion Nebula is very important to constrain current theories of star formation. We now realise that the way these very low-mass objects form depends on their environment.”
Observations of “Jellyfish galaxies” with ESO’s Very Large Telescope have revealed a previously unknown way to fuel supermassive black holes. It seems the mechanism that produces the tentacles of gas and newborn stars that give these galaxies their nickname also makes it possible for the gas to reach the central regions of the galaxies, feeding the black hole that lurks in each of them and causing it to shine brilliantly.
In the brightest region of this glowing nebula called RCW 34, gas is heated dramatically by young stars and expands through the surrounding cooler gas, bursting outwards into the vacuum like the contents of an uncorked champagne bottle. But RCW 34 has more to offer than a few bubbles; there seem to have been multiple episodes of star formation within the same cloud.
Pluto hogs the spotlight in the continuing scientific debate over what is and what is not a planet, but a less conspicuous argument rages on about the planetary status of massive objects outside our solar system. The dispute is not just about semantics, as it is closely related to how giant planets like Jupiter form.