Hubble serves up a holiday snow angel
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope presents a festive holiday greeting that’s out of this world. The bipolar star-forming region, called Sharpless 2-106, looks like a soaring, celestial snow angel. The outstretched “wings” of the nebula record the contrasting imprint of heat and motion against the backdrop of a colder medium.
Sharpless 2-106 lies nearly 2,000 light-years from us. The nebula measures several light-years in length. It appears in a relatively isolated region of the Milky Way galaxy. Twin lobes of super-hot gas — glowing blue in this image — stretch outward from the massive, young star IRS 4, creating the “wings” of our angel.
A ring of dust and gas orbiting the star acts like a belt, cinching the expanding nebula into an “hourglass” shape, with ripples and ridges in the gas interacting with the cooler interstellar medium. Dusky red veins surround the blue emission from the nebula. The faint light emanating from the central star reflects off of tiny dust particles. This illuminates the environment around the star, showing darker filaments of dust winding beneath the blue lobes.
Infrared observations of the nebula have also uncovered more than 600 brown dwarfs with weighs less than a tenth of our Sun. Because of their low mass, they cannot produce sustained energy through nuclear fusion like our Sun does. They encompass the nebula in a small cluster.
Watch video: Three-dimensional view of Sharpless 2-106