Intense ultraviolet radiation from newly formed stars can ionise surrounding hydrogen gas, stripping away electrons and causing the gas to emit a faint pinkish glow. The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, using the FORS instrument, captured that glow in an emission nebula known Gum 26, a star-forming region some 20,000 light years away in the southern constellation Vela. By catching such stars “pink handed,” ESO says in a statement, astronomers can learn more about the conditions in which stars form and how such stellar nurseries influence their environments. This image of Gum 26 was captured as part of the ESO Cosmic Gems programme to produce images of especially captivating objects for education and public outreach.
In this image from ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), light from blazing blue stars energises the gas left over from the stars’ recent formation. The result is a strikingly colourful emission nebula, called LHA 120-N55, in which the stars are adorned with a mantle of glowing gas. LHA 120-N55 lies within the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way.
When our galaxy was born, around 13,000 million years ago, a plethora of clusters containing millions of stars emerged. But over time, they have been disappearing. However, hidden behind younger stars that formed later, some old and dying star clusters remain, such as the so-called E 3. European astronomers have now studied this testimony to the beginnings of our galaxy.