New data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the IRAM 30-m telescope have been used to create one of the largest high-resolution mosaics of a star formation region produced so far at millimeter wavelengths.
The Orion Nebula, also known as NGC 1976, Messier 42 (M42), LBN 974, and Sharpless 281, is a diffuse nebula in the constellation Orion.
It can be seen with the naked eye as a fuzzy patch surrounding the star Theta Orionis in the Hunter’s Sword, below Orion’s belt.
At a distance of approximately 1,350 light-years, this is the nearest region of massive star formation to Earth, and is therefore studied in great detail by astronomers seeking to better understand how stars form and evolve in their first few million years.
The new image of the Orion Nebula was created by Leiden Observatory astronomer Alvaro Hacar and colleagues.
It combines a total of 296 separate individual datasets from ALMA and IRAM telescopes.
The wispy, fiber-like structures seen in the image are long filaments of cold gas, only visible to telescopes working in the millimeter wavelength range.
They are invisible at both optical and infrared wavelengths, making ALMA one of the only instruments available for astronomers to study them.
This gas gives rise to newborn stars — it gradually collapses under the force of its own gravity until it is sufficiently compressed to form a protostar — the precursor to a star.
Dr. Hacar and co-authors were studying the filaments to learn more about their structure and make-up.
They used ALMA to look for signatures of diazenylium (N2H+) gas, which makes up part of these structures.
Through doing this study, the astronomers managed to identify a network of 55 filaments.
Source: Sci News