Volume: 04, Issue: 05 11/02/2005 
Black Widow Nebula. Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/E. Churchwell (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and the GLIMPSE Team.
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Black Widow Nebula. Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/E. Churchwell (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and the GLIMPSE Team.
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Other Articles in This Issue:
Hubble Reveals Possible New Moons Around Pluto
Cassini Uncovers More Saturn Mysteries
International Space Station Celebrates Milestone
Chat about Spaceflight with a Former Astronaut
 

Spitzer Catches Black Widow Nebula

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has spied a fascinating silhouette in the sky: the “Black Widow Nebula,” teeming with clusters of massive young stars. The discovery was made in the constellation Circinus, where previous visible-light observations by the Digital Sky Survey saw only a faint hourglass-shaped patch of obscuring dust and gas.

In the Spitzer image, the two opposing bubbles are being formed in opposite directions by powerful outflows from massive groups of forming stars. The baby stars can be seen as specks of yellow where the two bubbles overlap.

When individual stars form from molecular clouds of gas and dust, they produce intense radiation and very strong particle winds. Both the radiation and the stellar winds blow the dust outward from the star creating a cavity, or bubble.

In the case of the Black Widow Nebula, astronomers suspect a large cloud of gas and dust condensed to create multiple clusters of massive star formation. The combined winds from these groups of large stars probably blew out bubbles into the direction of least resistance, forming a double bubble.

The infrared image was captured by the Galactic Legacy Infrared Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire (GLIMPSE) Legacy project. The Spitzer picture is a four-channel false-color composite, showing emission from wavelengths of 3.6 microns (blue), 4.5 microns (green), 5.8 microns (orange) and 8.0 microns (red).

For more information about the Spitzer Space Telescope, visit http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/spitzer/index.shtml.

    
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