Crimson Star Nursery (photo)

The presented image was taken by the 0.9-meter SMARTS telescope installed at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. It demonstrates the emission nebula RCW 120.

Emission nebula RCW 120. Source: CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage/NSF’s NOIRLab)

RCW 120 is located at a distance of 4,300 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Scorpio. It is a stellar nursery — a huge cloud of hydrogen gas (astronomers use the term HII region to refer to such objects), inside which new stars are forming right now.

The heat released by young massive stars ionizes the surrounding hydrogen clouds, which then emit radiation in the dark red and infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Dark paths in the nebula represent less “charged” areas that do not glow despite the fact that they consist of the same material.

The luminaries formed in such nebulae play an important role in the formation of many heavy elements, such as silicon and iron. RCW 120 is also home to a very curious protostar, which mass is already ten times that of the sun and may increase even more in the future. Astronomers estimate that in a few hundred thousand years it will become one of the brightest stars in our Milky Way.

Earlier we published spectacular pictures of the Tarantula nebula.

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