15 November 2016 | Taurus Molecular Cloud

Taurus Molecular Cloud

Credit: Iñaki Lizaso | Click image to enlarge or here for full size (4MB)

Image Data

  • Location: Spain
  • Date: 27th of October 2016
  • Camera: Apogee U16M / AFW-50-7S
  • Optics: Takahashi FSQ-106EDX
  • Mount: EM-200Temma2M
  • Filters: Astrodon E-Series genII filters
  • Exposure: 26 x 300s (L) + 12 x 300s (R) + 12 x 300s (G) + 12 x 300s (B)

The intricate jumble depicted in this image shows the distribution of gas and dust in the Taurus Molecular Cloud, a giant stellar nursery about 450 light-years away in the constellation Taurus, the Bull.

Dust is a minor but crucial ingredient in the diffuse mixture that provides the raw material for stars to form.

One of the recent most striking discoveries was the detection of ubiquitous filaments – elongated and thin structures of gas and dust weaving their way across the Galaxy. Interstellar filaments were already known before, but new data revealed them almost everywhere in the Milky Way and highlighted their role as preferred hubs for stellar birth.

Astronomers now believe that filaments precede the onset of most star formation, funnelling interstellar gas and dust into increasingly denser concentrations. Gravity later causes the densest filaments to contract and fragment, eventually leading to the formation of stars.

This image shows a tangle of filaments emerging from the cloud material, which are dotted with a few compact, bright cores: the seeds of future stars. The view also reveals a network of smaller threads, perpendicular to the most prominent filament.

This pattern is suggestive of accretion flows, indicating that the material along filaments is not at all static and that the most massive among them might be drawing matter from their surroundings. Some numerical simulations of star formation in molecular clouds also predict a similar arrangement of interstellar material, with gas and dust streaming towards the densest filaments along routes that are shaped by the local magnetic field.


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