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Stunning interstellar clouds captured in a new scene

Stunning interstellar clouds captured in a new scene

This observation was made by the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment, operated by the European Southern Observatory in the Atacama Desert in Chile.

Orion is not just a famous constellation. This region of the sky is also where giant clouds of hydrogen give birth to new stars and planets. Molecular clouds are found between 1,300 and 1,600 light-years from our planet.

The Flame Nebula has a group of young stars at its center. These stars emit high-energy radiation, causing gas clouds to glow dramatically.

The new images are the result of observations made a few years ago by Thomas Stank, a former astronomer at the European Southern Observatory, and his team. Newly processed images of the Flame Nebula, along with other scenes, have been accepted for publication in the magazine Astronomy and astrophysics.

This new rendering of Orion specific features came after the SuperCam tool was installed in the Atacama Pathfinder Experience. The instrument is designed to observe molecular clouds located across the Milky Way. In this particular research, the team used it to research radio waves from carbon monoxide in Orion’s clouds.

“As astronomers like to say, when there is a new telescope or instrument, watch Orion – there will always be something new and interesting to discover!” Stankey said in a statement.

While observing the Flame Nebula and its surroundings, the researchers also observed light-reflecting clouds from nearby stars and discovered a new, small circular nebula they named the Cow Nebula. The SuperCam tool can help astronomers map these stellar nurseries where stars are born.

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The Flame Nebula dominates the left half inside the yellow rectangle in the image below. On the right is a reflection of NGC 2023 and at the top right is the Horsehead Nebula.

Swipe back and forth between the two images to see the differences in the background, one captured in infrared light by the Visual and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy at Paranal Observatory in Chile and the other in visible light from the Digital Sky Survey 2.

Due to the popularity of Orion, telescopes have flown over this part of the sky in many wavelengths of light.

Despite the fiery appearance of the Flame Nebula, the clouds are extremely cold, reaching a few tens of degrees above absolute zero. Absolute zero is negative 273.15 degrees Celsius or negative 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit.