The Seagull Nebula: Birthplace of new stars

Seagull Nebula
Copyright: ESO/VPHAS team/N.J. Wright (Keele University)

Astronomers at Keele University have captured a new image showcasing the enormous Seagull Nebula, named because it looks like a seagull in flight.

The images of the Seagull Nebula were created by Keele University’s Dr Nicholas Wright using a VLT Survey Telescope run by ESO.

The “wingspan” of the Seagull Nebula, measures at around 100 light-years, containing three large gas clouds made up of dust, hydrogen, helium and traces of heavier elements.

The hot, energetic, birth place of new stars, contains an extremely bright star, in the place of the bird’s eye, named HD 53367 which is 20 times larger than the earth’s Sun.

The Seagull Nebula sits on the border between the constellations of Canis Major (The Great Dog) and Monoceros (The Unicorn).

In order to capture an image of the whole “bird”, researcher Dr Nicholas Wright, had to process and compile multiple images using the VTL Survey Telescope.

Dr Nicholas Wright said:

“The Seagull Nebula is a cloud of hydrogen that is being heated up by bright and young stars in its vicinity, which will have previously formed in the nebula. There are many such nebulae in our galaxy, with some of the most famous examples being the Orion Nebula, the Rosette Nebula and the Eagle Nebula.”

Wright continued:“But each nebula is different and so it can be interesting to explore different nebulae to help us build up a bigger picture of how these nebulae are shaped by the stars around them. Stars form out of giant gas clouds in space known as “molecular clouds”, because they are cool enough that molecules can form within them. Once the stars form and begin to shine brightly they often heat up and disperse the cloud they are forming out of, which can bring the process of star formation to a close because the cloud gets too warm to form stars.

“What we’re seeing in the Seagull Nebula is this process where the forming stars are heating up the gas cloud and dispersing it. Understanding this process is valuable because it helps us understand how star formation is regulated. This ‘feedback’ is important in keeping star formation at a low but steady level in galaxies, which is one of the big questions in star formation these days.”

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