Sunday, 5 March 2017

Decorated with a rosette

The night's sky is the most bewildering spectacle that we, insignificant human beings, may behold. That is, if you go to one of the few areas left on our planet that aren't contaminated by useless street lights that we in our stupidity believe to make our lives safer. But if you're lucky enough to dwell in one of these rare places of exceptional darkness and the weather gods play in your favour too, try to look up a little more and you'll understand why we astronomers live our hobby with such great passion. While you're at it, try to ignore the imposing constellation of Orion which carries the famous nebula in its sword. Instead, look a bit to the left, to the almost indistinguishable constellation of Monoceros, the unicorn. Even though it doesn't contain any bright stars, the Milky Way decorates it with one of its brighter knots which means that you're bound to find lots of treasure in it. The most famous treasure is without question the glorious Rosette Nebula, which is so amazingly complex that it has no less than four scientific denominators: NGC2237-2238-2239-2246, plus another one for the bright and young star cluster within it (NGC2244). 

It is visible to the naked eye, but as I suggested you need a really dark sky for it. The Rosette is yet another area of massive star formation in our galaxy and with its radius of 20 lightyears it's also one of the biggest, even twice as big as the great Orion Nebula! The reason why it's so much fainter is because it lies 5.000 lightyears away, or almost four times further than its more famous counterpart. The Rosette proves to be a challenging object exactly because of its size. The frail light that eventually reaches us from it, is smeared out over a surface that would fit four full Moons! Luckily a binoscope offers the advantage that you can keep magnification lower for the same light gathering power so I managed to capture most of the nebula in the same field of view and with remarkable brightness. Look how the stunning Rosette's swirling around the newborn stars that are its offspring! Look at all those filaments of gas and dark matter that are yet contracting to form even hundreds of other new stars! Isn't it about time that we all turn the bl**dy lights off and start admiring what lies out there again, as did all of our forebeareres, instead of living in this tiny little world of fashion and social media?


No comments:

Post a Comment