Herschel zooms in on region of chaotic star formation
A newly-released image taken by the now decommissioned Herschel Space Observatory displays the complex and chaotic structure of the Vulpecula OB1 star formation region. The tumultuous scene, revealed thanks to the infrared capabilities of the Herschel telescope, was captured as part of the Hi-GAL project, which was responsible for imaging the entirety of the galactic plane in five distinct infrared wavelengths.
On a clear night, thegalactic plane is clearly visible as a pale band stretching acrossthe sky. The plane contains the majority of the mass in our galaxy,containing vast quantities of stars and choking clouds ofinterstellar dust and gas. Hi-GAL was instrumental in highlighting afilamentary structure in the star forming material present in thegalactic plane, and this same structure can be observed as red andorange tendrils in the new release.
The short-lived starsat the heart of Vulpecia OB1, which are among the most massive in ourgalaxy are classified as OB stellar bodies. Each of the leviathans are dozens of times the mass of our Sun. The OB starspresent in the Herschel image are grouped together into a roughly 150strong star cluster known as NGC 6823 (imaged above), which can be observed invisible light images of the region.
Vulpecia OB1's starsare known to throw out massive amounts of ultraviolet radiation. Thisradiation has the effect of ionizing and compressing the surroundingclouds, which in time will collapse upon themselves, giving birth tothe next generation of stars.
It is believed that theabundance of material exposed in the Herschel image is sufficient tosustain the star creation process for millions of years to come.