Monday, August 29, 2011

The dazzling Pac-Man Nebula powered by an open cluster of stars - 29th Aug 2011

This incredible cosmic image shows a nebula with an open cluster of stars inside it.

Described by Nasa as 'a busy workshop of star formation', NGC 281 is better known as the Pac-Man Nebula due to its distinctive shape.

It is powered by IC 1590, the open star cluster at its very centre.

These young stars, which generate the nebula's glow, have only formed in the last few million years.

The red shapes in this composite image are sculpted columns and dense dust globules seen in silhouette and eroded by strong, energetic winds and radiation from the hot cluster stars.

The brightest member of IC 1590 is actually a multiple-star system shining light that helps ionise the nebula's gas, causing the red glow visible throughout. Read More