The European Southern Observatory’s VLT telescope in Paranal, Chile, has captured images of an enormous ruby-colored gas cloud with giant imbedded stars whose origin remains a mystery to astronomers.
The image, released by the ESO at its headquarters in Garching, Germany, shows in detail the massive nebulae where the giants were born.
On top of the image’s center appears RCW 106, a large, reddish cloud of gas and dust some 12,000 light-years away in the southern constellation of Norma, known as The Carpenter’s Square.
A large portion of RCW 106 is hidden behind dust, and the cloud is much larger than what can be seen.
H-II regions, such as RCW 106, are clouds of hydrogen being ionized by the intense light of young stars, which make them shine as they adopt strange and awesome shapes.
Despite their intense bright, the young stars buried deep in the ruby-colored clouds cannot be seen in images of visible light, like the one captured by the VLT, because the dust around them is too dense, but they can be observed clearly on images taken at longer wavelengths.
In the case of less massive stars, such as the sun, the process of their birth is well known – as gravity draws in gas clouds, density and temperature increase until nuclear fusion starts, the ESO said.
But this explanation does not work for much larger 0-type stars imbedded in regions like RCW 106.
0-type stars may have a mass tens of times bigger than the sun, and it is not clear how they have gathered and stored enough gas to become stars.
They burn their nuclear fuel in just a few tens of millions of years, while less massive stars have life spans that run for billions of years.
Only one of every 3 million stars in our cosmic neighborhood is type O, and none of those present are near enough to conduct more detailed research.