NASA’s Hubble Telescope Captures Mesmerizing Images Of Baby Stars In Distant Nebula

hero nasa hubble nebula image
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope recently celebrated its 21st anniversary of deployment into space. Even after so many years of service, Hubble is still astounding those back on Earth with beautiful images. Such is the case with one of Hubble’s latest, a mesmerizing photo of baby stars in a distant nebula.

Nebula RCW 7 is located a little over 5,300 light-years from Earth in the constellation Puppis. According to NASA, this collection of interstellar gas and dust is a prime region for the forming of new stars. The particular protostars developing in RCW 7 are extremely large, emitting strong radiation and fierce stellar winds that helped transform the region into a H II region.

An H II region is a region of interstellar hydrogen that is ionized, according to the Oxford Reference. H II means that the hydrogen lost its electron, making it an ion. The H notation refers to the fact that the hydrogen atoms (H) are ionized, with H 1 referring to neutral, or un-ionized hydrogen. Ultraviolet radiation from the large protostars excites the hydrogen within the nebula, causing it to produce light that provides the “soft pinkish glow.”

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Full image captured by Hubble of RCW 7 (Click to enlarge).

While RCW 7 makes for a spectacular image, it was a massive proto-stellar binary, named IRAS 07299-1651 (seen toward the top of the image above), that was the primary focus of researchers. The proto-stellar binary can be seen in its “glowing cocoon of gas in the curling clouds.” In order to capture the proto-stellar binary and its siblings, astronomers used Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 in near-infrared light.

Hubble houses two primary camera systems to capture images of the cosmos. One is the Advanced Camera for Surveys, while the other is the Wide Field Camera 3. The two systems work together to produce astounding wide-field imaging over a broad range of wavelengths. The Wide Field Camera 3 was installed on Hubble in 2009, providing wide-field imagery in ultraviolet, or visible and infrared light. WFC3 can probe deeper into infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths than ACS, ultimately helping to provide a more complete view of the cosmos.

On the downside, the creation of an H II region marks the beginning of the end for a nebula such as RCW 7. Within a few million years, NASA says radiation and winds from the stars will gradually disperse the nebula’s gas. During its waning years, new stars within RCW 7 will only absorb a fraction of the nebula’s gas, as the rest spreads throughout the galaxy to eventually spawn new molecular clouds.