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Adam BlockJanuary 18, 2016

Pretty Pictures of the Cosmos: Shadow Play

The end of a year promises new beginnings with perhaps a sense of hopeful discovery for what is come in the next. This image embodies these feelings in both form and expression. For the first time, in this very deep image, you can appreciate the environs of V1025 Tauri:

The environs of V1025 Tauri

Adam Block / Mount Lemmon SkyCenter / University of Arizona

The environs of V1025 Tauri
This view of the Herbig Ae/Be star V1025 Tauri and its surroundings was acquired in November–December 2015. View additional information.

The brightest star in the center is called a Herbig Ae/Be star. It is captured here in the very earliest stages of stellar evolution as it collapses to become a mature star. Nuclear fusion in its center has started, but the energy output is not yet powerful enough to disperse the natal clouds of dust surrounding it. With wonderful shadow play, these clouds of dust present an intricacy and fragility that is testament to their ephemeral fate. On the timescales of stars this stage is extremely short-lived, and few examples look quite like it. It is a mystery as to why these kinds of stars are often born in multiple star systems.

This image, totaling more than 34 hours of exposure time, started from only the hint of something interesting based on available imagery of the region. The Taurus Molecular cloud continues to offer beautiful objects and I consider this image the most interesting one I have taken in years. I didn't know how it would come out since there are no commensurate references to compare it with.

I hope you enjoy joining me on these small celestial excursions to places little known in the vastness of space.

(The initial grayscale data of this object seemed to suggest a delicate cobweb. So...maybe that is a good nickname—not romantic—but still the "Cobweb Nebula" seems apropos.)

NGC 1977, sometimes called the "Running Man Nebula," is an extremely complex part of the greater Orion Nebula region:

NGC 1977: Running Man Nebula

Adam Block / Mount Lemmon SkyCenter / University of Arizona

NGC 1977: Running Man Nebula
This view of the nebula NGC 1977 was acquired in November–December 2015. View additional information.

The mixing of gas and dust, especially towards the bottom of the frame, is particularly mesmerizing. This is a new interpretation of a famous nebula. Be certain to click the image above to see the largest version of the image, which ultimately displays the finest resolution and hopefully gives a sense of depth (with brownish dust clouds in the foreground, blue scattered light more in the middle, and the bright red glow coming from deep within the nebula). Enjoy this first image of the year and I hope you agree it is one that clearly communicates that I hope to hit the ground "running" with more to follow.

Read more: pretty pictures, stars and galaxies, optical telescopes

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Adam Block

Astrophotographer for University of Arizona Steward Observatory
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