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NASA Unveils Hubble Photo Of Celestial ‘Snow Angel’

December 15, 2011

NASA unveiled a photo taken by its Hubble Space Telescope just in time for holiday festivities that resembles a snow angel.

The “angel” is actually a bipolar star-forming region called Sharpless 2-106, and its wings shape is derived from the nebula.

Despite the beauty of this celestial image, there is nothing peaceful about this star forming region.  The young star that lies in it is ferocious, spitting out super-hot gas at 18,032 degrees Fahrenheit.

“A ring of dust and gas orbiting the star acts like a belt, cinching the expanding nebula into an ‘hourglass” shape,’” NASA said in a press release. “Hubble´s sharp resolution reveals ripples and ridges in the gas as it interacts with the cooler interstellar medium.”

The star has a mass that is about 15 times that of the Sun and is in the final stages of its formation.

The nebula sits nearly 2,000 light-years away from Earth and measures several light-years in length.

It was the 106th object to be catalogued by the astronomer Stewart Sharpless in the 1950s.

The picture was taken with Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 in February 2011.  The image is a result from the combination of two images taken in infrared light and one which is turned to a specific wavelength of visible light emitted by excited hydrogen gas.

Using this wavelength is ideal for targeting star-forming regions.  The H-alpha filter helps isolate the light emitted from hydrogen in gas clouds, while the infrared light can shine through the dust that often obscures these regions.

Image Caption: The bipolar star-forming region, called Sharpless 2-106, looks like a soaring, celestial snow angel. The outstretched “wings” of the nebula record the contrasting imprint of heat and motion against the backdrop of a colder medium. Twin lobes of super-hot gas, glowing blue in this image, stretch outward from the central star. This hot gas creates the “wings” of our angel. A ring of dust and gas orbiting the star acts like a belt, cinching the expanding nebula into an “hourglass” shape. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

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Source: RedOrbit Staff



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