Big Pix from Herschel

Europe's new Herschel Space Observatory is all checked out and in excellent working order, as the European Space Agency demonstrated this morning with its release of a gorgeous nebula picture.

Far-IR cold clouds
In this far-infrared mosaic image from Herschel, we see right through cold, dense molecular clouds near the plane of the Milky Way in the constellation Crux, the Southern Cross. The frame is nearly 2° tall. Emission at 70 microns is shown here as blue, 160 microns as green, and 250, 350, and 500 microns are combined as red. Click for full-size views and more information.
ESA and the SPIRE & PACS consortia
With an aperture of 3.5 meters, Herschel is the largest space telescope yet flown (Hubble is 2.4 meters). Perhaps more importantly, Herschel works in the far-infrared part of the spectrum: a poorly explored realm between the familiar, shorter-wavelength "warm infrared" and the millimeter-wave and microwave radio bands. Its cameras can work at six far-infrared and submillimeter colors, with wavelengths around 70, 110, 160, 250, 350, and 500 microns. Such wavelengths are the ones most strongly emitted by objects that are extremely cold — not far above absolute zero.

What we see in the picture here (a mosaic of many small frames) is mostly very cold interstellar dust. It's not reflecting starlight but glowing with the characteristic, very weak thermal emission for such temperatures. Blue and green here represent two of Herschel's shorter wavelengths, highlighting less-cold dust. Red indicates longer wavelengths and colder material. Notice the bright points of star formation happening inside a few of the densest, coldest filaments, almost like pearls on a string.

This is just a taste. In the coming months and years there'll be lots more.

3 thoughts on “Big Pix from Herschel

  1. Oliver K. Manuel

    What is the source of energy that powers the pearls on a string?

    Stars are supposed to light up from Hydrogen fusion. Neutron stars and “Black Holes” are supposed to be the dead nuclear embers after fusion is completed.

    It appears that Herschel is seeing – as Hubble also observed – evidence that nuclear evolution actually occurs in the opposite direction to our models:

    (a) Compact nuclear matter -(dissociates)-> Hydrogen + Energy
    (b) Hydrogen -(fusion)-\-> Compact nuclear matter + Energy

    Repulsive forces between neutrons in the core of the Sun, other ordinary stars, galaxies, neutron stars, and “Black Holes” can release energy by neutron emission and neutron decay. This would fill interstellar space with Hydrogen via reaction (a) and also explain why solar-wind Hydrogen pours from the Sun [“Neutron repulsion confirmed as energy source”, Journal of Fusion Energy 20 (2003) 197-201]

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel

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