Astronomers Investigating Cosmic Bubbles and Bow Shocks

Astronomers Investigating Cosmic Bubbles and Bow Shocks

Multiple bubbles, bow shocks from young stars observed in a new infrared image from the Spitzer Space Telescope have been recently recognized as a part of the Milky Way Project, a citizen science initiative on Zooniverse.org. The complete Milky Way Project catalogs, which record a total number of 2,600 bubbles and 599 bow shocks, are described in a science newspaper. This new infrared picture from the Spitzer Space Telescope was made possible by this work; it enabled astronomers to know where to look. The picture reveals a cloud of gas and dust-filled with bubbles that are inflated by wind and radiation from young, massive stars. Every bubble is filled with thousands of stars, which form from thick clouds of gas and dust.

The bubbles are estimated to be 10-30 light-years throughout, primarily based on what astronomers learn about them and other cosmic bubbles. However, discovering the precise sizes of single bubbles will be tough, because their distance from Earth is hard to measure, and objects seem smaller the farther away they’re.

Flows of particles emitted by the stars, known as stellar winds, in addition to the pressure of the light, are produced by stars, can push the surrounding material outward, sometimes creating a distinct perimeter.

In an accompanying annotated picture, yellow circles and ovals outline more than 30 bubbles.

This active area of star formation is situated within the Milky Way galaxy, in the constellation Aquila (also called the Eagle). Black veins running throughout the cloud are areas of dense cold dust and gas were more new stars are expected to form.

Spitzer can detect infrared light, which is not visible to the human eye. Many interstellar nebulas like this one are best observed in infrared light because infrared wavelengths can pass via intervening layers of dust in the Milky Way galaxy. Visible light, however, tends to be blocked more by dust.

The colors in this picture signify different wavelengths of infrared light. Blue represents a wavelength of light primarily emitted by stars; dust and organic molecules are known as hydrocarbons appear green, and warm dust that’s been heated by stars appears red.

Additionally, visible are four bow shocks – red arcs of warm dust formed as winds from fast-moving stars push aside dust grains scattered sparsely via a lot of the nebula. Squares indicate the areas of the bow shocks in the annotated picture, and proven close up in the accompanying detail photos.

Andrew Francis

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