13 December 2016 | Dusty Perseus

IC 348 + Barnard 205

Image credit & copyright: Rafael Schmall | Click image to enlarge

Image Data

  • Location: Hungary, Somogy, Kaposfő
  • Date: 2016.10.09 – 2016.12.05 (9 nights)
  • Camera: Canon EOS 1100D (FS)
  • Optics: 200/800 SkyWatcher Newton
  • Mount: SkyWatcher AZEQ6 pro GT
  • Filters: Astronomik IR/UV cut
  • Exposure: 210 x 8 min @ ISO 800

This intriguing image, made by Rafael Schmall from Hungary, shows  a small portion of the large dusty Perseus OB2 molecular cloud. These clouds are an impressive dusty brown and are punctuated with regions of blue reflection nebulae.

The dark cloud-formation to the right is known as  dark nebula Barnard 3, also known as IRAS Ring G159.6-18.5 or the Wreath Nebula, a stellar nursery where stars are born. The dark ring of Barnard 3 is made of tiny particles of warm dust whose composition is very similar to smog found here on Earth. The cloud in the middle is probably made of dust that is more metallic and cooler than the surrounding regions.

The bright star in the middle of Barnard 3, called HD 278942, is so luminous that it is likely what is causing most of the surrounding ring to glow. In fact its powerful stellar winds are what cleared out the surrounding warm dust and created the ring-shaped feature in the first place. The bluish-white stars scattered throughout are stars located both in front of, and behind, the nebula.

To the left we see IC 348, a star forming region located about 315 parsecs from the Sun. It consists of nebulosity and an associated 2-million-year-old cluster of roughly 400 stars within an angular diameter of 20″.

The most massive stars in the IC 348 cluster are the binary star system BD+31°643, which has a combined spectral class of B5. Based upon infrared observations using the Spitzer Space Telescope, about half of the stars in the cluster have a circumstellar disk, of which 60% are thick or primordial disks.

The age of this cluster has allowed three low mass brown dwarfs to be discovered. These objects lose heat as they age, so they are more readily discovered while they are still young.


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