Herschel Telescope Observes Star Formation

Galactic Bubble RCW120 (European Space Agency -- Herschel Telescope)

In just five more days — on May 14th — the Herschel Telescope will celebrate the first anniversary of its launch (as will the jointly launched Planck telescope). In consequence, the European Space Agency in late April released a number of “first results” for the spacecraft’s first year of operation.

Among them: the enormous galactic bubble RCW 120 resides some 4300 light-years away, created by the force of starlight from a star (invisible in the infrared wavelengths of this photograph) thrusting away the surrounding dust and gas. During the 2.5 million years of the star’s existence it has compressed that dust and gas to such a density that it has begun to collapse, forming new stars in the process.

At the lower lip of the bubble you can see a large embryonic star formed as a consequence of this compression and collapse. The Herschel telescope reveals that this incipient star is already 8 to 10 times the mass of our Sun, and will grow substantially larger yet, as its surrounding cloud contains an additional 2000 solar masses.

For more information on RCW120, see Herschel Reveals the Hidden Side of Star Birth at the Online Showcase of Herschel Images.

Look here for a number of other intriguing Herschel images.

For more on the Herschel telescope, see our earlier post Starbirth On View. (You may also wish to pursue a few additional links in another earlier post,Trinity of Triumph in the International Year of Astronomy.)

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Published in: on May 9, 2010 at 10:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

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