Cygnus-X: The Cool Swan Glowing in Flight
This new view of the Cygnus-X star-formation region by Herschel highlights chaotic networks of dust and gas that point to sites of massive star formation. The image combines far-infrared data acquired at 70 micron (corresponding to the blue channel); 160 micron (corresponding to the green channel); and 250 micron (corresponding to the red channel). The observations were made on May 24, 2010, and December 18, 2010. North is to the lower-right and east to the upper-right.
Image Credit: ESA/PACS/SPIRE/Martin Hennemann & Frederique Motte, Laboratoire AIM Paris-Saclay, CEA/Irfu — CNRS/INSU — Univ. Paris Diderot, France
Legacy of Herschel Space Observatory
To celebrate the legacy of ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory, which had significant NASA contributions, the European Space Agency (ESA) has designated this week as Herschel Week, highlighting some of the mission’s accomplishments.
Herschel is the largest observatory ever launched that explored the universe in infrared wavelengths, a spectrum of light that is invisible to the naked eye. Data from its nearly four years of observations, from 2009 to 2013, have helped scientists explore many topics of high interest, including the following:
A Dwarf Galaxy’s Star Bar and Dusty Wing
This image shows the Small Magellanic Cloud galaxy in infrared light from the Herschel Space Observatory a European Space Agency-led mission with important NASA contributions, and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are the two biggest satellite galaxies of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, though they are still considered dwarf galaxies compared to the big spiral of the Milky Way.
In combined data from Herschel and Spitzer, the irregular distribution of dust in the Small Magellanic Cloud becomes clear. A stream of dust extends to the left in this image, known as the galaxy’s “wing,” and a bar of star formation appears on the right.
The colors in this image indicate temperatures in the dust that permeates the Cloud. Colder regions show where star formation is at its earliest stages or is shut off, while warm expanses point to new stars heating surrounding dust. The coolest areas and objects appear in red, corresponding to infrared light taken up by Herschel’s Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver at 250 microns, or millionths of a meter. Herschel’s Photodetector Array Camera and Spectrometer fills out the mid-temperature bands, shown here in green, at 100 and 160 microns. The warmest spots appear in blue, courtesy of 24- and 70-micron data from Spitzer.
Image Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI
1. How do stars form? This question speaks to the core of our existence, as all the atoms that form the planets of our solar system — and life on Earth itself — largely originated from previous generations of stars. Herschel has provided an unprecedented glimpse into portions of our galaxy where stars form. Scientists have made big strides in understanding the processes that lead to the formation of stars in our galaxy.
2. Herschel has tracked the presence of water in the Milky Way. The observatory found water in star-forming molecular clouds, detected it for the first time in the seeds of future stars and planets, and identified the delivery of water from interplanetary debris to planets in our solar system.
source: NASA – Jet Propulsion Laboratory – California Institute of Technology