Astronomy Now Home
Home Magazine Resources Store

On Sale Now!

The October 2014 issue of Astronomy Now is on sale! Order direct from our store (free 1st class post & to UK addresses). Astronomy Now is the only astronomy magazine specially designed to be read on tablets and phones. Download the app from Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.

Top Stories

Earthshine used to test life detection method
...By imagining the Earth as an exoplanet, scientists observing our planet's reflected light on the Moon with ESO's Very Large Telescope have demonstrated a way to detect life on other worlds...

Solid buckyballs discovered in space
...Astronomers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have detected a particular type of molecule, given the nickname “buckyball”, in a solid form for the first time...

Steamy water-world gets the Hubble treatment
...Hubble Space Telescope observations of a 7 Earth-mass planet find an unusual water-rich world swathed in a thick, steamy atmosphere...

VISTA strikes again
Posted: 22 April

Bookmark and Share

The Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope (VISTA), perched atop the 2,635-metre high peak of Cerro Paranal in Chile’s Atacama Desert, has provided revealing new images that penetrate the thick gas and dust shrouding one of the most active star-forming regions in the Galaxy: the Cat’s Paw Nebula.

VISTA’s view into the Cat’s Paw Nebula, taken through Y, J and Ks filters (false-colour red, green and blue respectively), with exposures of five minutes per filter. You can find a larger version of the image here. Image: ESO/J Emerson/VISTA.

Residing 5,500 light years away in the direction of the constellation Scorpius, the Cat’s Paw (more properly known as NGC 6334) is a dense cloud of molecular (HII) hydrogen gas that is forming stars. In visible light images, the starlight from the young stars illuminates the surrounding gas, causing it to glow and reveal the distinctive shape that gave rise to its name. However VISTA, the world’s largest survey telescope with a 4.1-metre mirror, operates at near-infrared wavelengths that can see through most of the gas and dust, leaving only a hint of the ‘paw print’ (you can compare the VISTA image with a visible light image captured by the European Southern Observatory’s 2.2-metre telescope, here).

Close ups of sections of the CatŐs Paw. Image: ESO/J Emerson/VISTA.

What VISTA, which is also operated by ESO, has found are hundreds of young stars, some as many as ten times the mass of the Sun. The observations, which span the entire 50 light years of the nebula thanks to VISTA’s enormous 1.65-degree field-of-view, provide an insight into the first few million years of these stars’ lives. That said, there are some regions that not even VISTA, with the world’s largest infrared camera, can penetrate. At the very centre of the nebula are some orange-coloured regions that are areas where the gas is so thick it blocks even infrared light. This region is host to the youngest stars, with their polar jets heating the surrounding gas. Far from being meek pussy cats, these youngest of stars are actually fiery lions that have inscribed their paw print upon the Galaxy.

You can read much more about VISTA, its six giant surveys and the camera and filters it employs in the May 2010 issue of Astronomy Now, on sale now from both newsagents and our online store. You can also watch our exclusive interview with leading VISTA scientist Professor Jim Emerson, of Queen Mary University of London, filmed at the National Astronomy Meeting in Glasgow last week, here.

The Planets
From tiny Mercury to distant Neptune and Pluto, The Planets profiles each of the Solar System's members in depth, featuring the latest imagery from space missions. The tallest mountains, the deepest canyons, the strongest winds, raging atmospheric storms, terrain studded with craters and vast worlds of ice are just some of the sights you'll see on this 100-page tour of the planets.

Hubble Reborn
Hubble Reborn takes the reader on a journey through the Universe with spectacular full-colour pictures of galaxies, nebulae, planets and stars as seen through Hubble's eyes, along the way telling the dramatic story of the space telescope, including interviews with key scientists and astronauts.

3D Universe
Witness the most awesome sights of the Universe as they were meant to be seen in this 100-page extravaganza of planets, galaxies and star-scapes, all in 3D!


© 2014 Pole Star Publications Ltd.