The 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera, built by the U.S. Department of Energy, was used by NSF’s NOIRLab at Chile’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory to capture images of the massive, star-forming interstellar cloud Lupus 3.
The central portion of the cloud, shown in the image, reveals a pair of young stars bursting out of their natal cocoons of dust and gas to illuminate the reflection nebula known as Bernes 149.
This object is an important target for star formation studies because of its contrasting regions.
On Earth, the collision of energy and matter can produce amazing images such as blazing thunderstorms and glittering auroras. The same is true in space, where the light from blazing young stars and protostars floods the region in which they reside, illuminating massive interstellar clouds of dust and gas and producing beautiful reflection nebulae.
A stunning example of these colliding forces is the star-forming interstellar cloud Lupus 3. This star-forming nebula is located about 500 light-years from Earth toward the constellation of Lupus.
The nebula’s two blue stars, HR 5999 and HR 6000, illuminate neighboring gas and dust to form the brilliant blue reflection nebula Bernes 149. The dark nebula Lupus 3, blanketing the background of stars, gave rise to these stars . This cloud is more than just a cosmic blob of coal blackness, however. T Tauri stars, which will eventually use the material from Lupus 3 to evolve into mature stars, are among the fleet of young stars that call this stellar system home.
With the relatively young age of about 1 million years, both stars are the oldest of the stars in the Lupus 3 region. Despite their brightness, these stars are pre-main-sequence stars, meaning they are not yet undergoing nuclear fusion, unlike our Sun.
The oldest stars in the Lupus 3 zone are HR 5999 and HR 6000, only about 1 million years old. Despite their brilliance, these stars are pre-main-sequence stars, meaning they are not yet undergoing nuclear fusion, unlike our Sun. Gravity, which compresses and heats the inner substance, propels them instead. The Bernes 149 Reflection Nebula was formed when these sister stars blasted away neighboring gas and dust, revealing the remnants.
When astronomers first discovered the true nature of this nebula, it was expected that this and similar regions would be useful in finding areas of recent or active star formation. This conjecture turned out to be correct and Lupus 3 has provided many insights into the early stages of star formation.