MessageToEagle.com - This part of the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer) is one of the richest star
fields in the whole sky — the Large Sagittarius Star Cloud.
The huge number of stars that light up this region dramatically emphasise
the blackness of dark clouds like Barnard 86, which appears at the centre of this new picture from the Wide Field Imager, an instrument mounted
on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile.
This object, a small, isolated dark nebula known as a Bok globule, was described as “a drop of ink on the
luminous sky” by its discoverer Edward Emerson Barnard, an American astronomer who discovered and photographed
numerous comets, dark nebulae, one of Jupiter’s moons, and made many other contributions.
Click on image to enlarge
The bright star cluster NGC 6520 and the strangely shaped dark cloud Barnard 86. Credits: ESO
An exceptional visual observer and keen astrophotographer, Barnard was the first to use long-exposure
photography to explore dark nebulae.
Through a small telescope Barnard 86 looks like a dearth of stars, or a window onto a patch of distant, clearer sky.
However, this object is actually in the foreground of the star field — a cold, dark, dense cloud made up of small
dust grains that block starlight and make the region appear opaque.
It is thought to have formed from the remnants of a molecular cloud that collapsed to form the nearby star
cluster NGC 6520, seen just to the left of Barnard 86 in this image.
NGC 6520 is an open star cluster that contains many hot stars that glow bright blue-white, a telltale sign of
their youth. Open clusters usually contain a few thousand stars that all formed at the same time, giving them
all the same age.
Such clusters usually only live comparatively short lives, on the order of several hundred
million years, before drifting apart.
The incredible number of stars in this area of the sky muddles observations of this cluster, making it difficult
to learn much about it. NGC 6520’s age is thought to be around 150 million years, and both this star cluster
and its dusty neighbor are thought to lie at a distance of around 6000 light-years from our Sun.
Molecular "Black Cloud" B68 toward the constellation Ophiuchus
The eerily dark surroundings help make the interiors of molecular clouds some of the coldest
and most isolated places in the universe. That no stars are visible in the center indicates that Barnard
68 is relatively nearby, with measurements placing it about 500 light-years away and half a light-year
across. It is not known exactly how molecular clouds like Barnard 68 form, but it is known that these
clouds are themselves likely places for new stars to form. Credit: FORS Team, 8.2-meter VLT Antu, ESO
The stars that appear to be within Barnard 86 in the image above are in fact in front of it, lying between us
and the dark cloud.
Although it is not certain whether this is still happening within Barnard 86, many dark
nebulae are known to have new stars forming in their centres — as seen in the famous Horsehead Nebula,
the striking object Lupus 3 and to a lesser extent in another of Barnard’s discoveries, the Pipe Nebula.
However, the light from the youngest stars is blocked by the surrounding dusty regions, and they can only be
seen in infrared or longer-wavelength light.
The Wandering Stars
In ancient civilizations, people pondered the meanings of the stars, watching for clues to their survival: the beginning of planting and
harvesting times, the seasons, and even portents of danger.
They soon noticed that certain stars didn't stay in place, but wandered amongst the fixed star field.
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Living Earth Simulator - Supercomputer Predicting The Future
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Warp-Speed Planets Are Some Of The Fastest Objects In The Milky Way
Warped planets are some of the fastest objects in the Milky Way and they zoom through space near the speed of light.
Some years ago astronomers were astonished when they they found the first runaway star flying out of our Galaxy at a speed of 1.5 million miles per hour.
The discovery intrigued theorists, who wondered: If a star can get tossed outward at such an extreme velocity, could the same thing happen to planets?
Though the universe is filled with billions upon billions of stars, the discovery of a single variable star in 1923 altered the
course of modern astronomy. And, at least one famous astronomer of the time lamented that the discovery had shattered his world view.
Kepler Will Find Goldilocks Planet Within The Next Two Years
NASA's Kepler spacecraft is discovering a veritable avalanche of alien worlds. Recent finds include planets with double suns, massive
"super-Earths" and "hot Jupiters," and a miniature solar system.
The variety of planets circling distant suns is as wonderful as it is surprising.