This WISE mosaic is of the Soul Nebula (a.k.a. the Embryo Nebula, IC 1848, or W5). It is an open cluster of stars surrounded by a cloud of dust and gas over 150 light-years across and located about 6,500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cassiopeia, near the Heart Nebula (partially seen in the WISE image of Maffei 1 & 2).
The cluster of stars, IC 1848, formed about a million years ago from the material of the nebula. Winds and ultraviolet light from these young stars are excavating a cavity in the cloud. Parts of the cloud that are more dense than their surroundings are being eroded more slowly and form giant towers, or pillars of dust and gas, which all point toward the central star cluster. It’s reminiscent of the landscape of Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Material at the interior edges of the cavity is also being compressed by the winds and radiation from the star cluster. This triggers new star formation in those areas. The pillars inside the Soul Nebula are each about 10 light-years tall and have stars forming at their tips.
Soul Nebula – click for 800×418 image
Labels: star formation
Links to this post: