Thursday, November 15, 2012

Herschel Spies Stellar Wreckage

This image shows a three-color infrared view of the supernova remnant W44 (purple sphere) and surrounding regions. It was taken by the European Space Agency's Herschel mission, which has important contributions from NASA.

W44 is located around 10,000 light-years away, within a forest of dense star-forming clouds in the constellation of Aquila, the Eagle. It is one of the best examples of a supernova remnant interacting with its parent cloud. The supernova remnant is the result of massive star that reached the end of its life and expelled its outer layers in a dramatic explosion.

Herschel's infrared eyes seek out regions of gently heated gas and dust further from W44, where new stars are congregating. Examples include the arrowhead-shaped star-formation region to the right of W44, which appears to point to another trio of intricate clouds further to the right and above.

Herschel’s three-color infrared view comprises data from the Photodetecting Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS) at 70 and 160 microns, and Herschel's spectral and photometric imaging receiver (SPIRE) instrument at 250 microns.

The field of view is about one-degree across. North is towards the bottom left of the image; east is to the top right.

Herschel is a European Space Agency cornerstone mission, with science instruments provided by consortia of European institutes and NASA. NASA's Herschel Project Office is based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. JPL contributed mission-enabling technology for two of Herschel's three science instruments. The NASA Herschel Science Center, part of the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, supports the United States astronomical community. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

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