Journey to the Heart of the Rose
5000 light years away, in the constellation Monoceros, lies a large emission nebula called the Rosette Nebula. It looks like a beautiful red rose. Our journey takes us to the center of this rose. Here we see an open cluster of blue hot stars, known as NGC 2244. This O-B grouping represents the hottest and largest stars in the nebula. These stars were formed from the nebula and now are serving as a catalyst for the red color we see in the rose. Large amounts of ultraviolet radiation from these stars is surging through the cloud, exciting the hydrogen atoms and causing them to emit red light. These stars in the core are also clearing the heart of the rose with their fierce stellar winds and radiation. We believe these stars to be fairly young, having formed only 1-3 million years ago. The nebula itself spans about 140 light years, and has sufficient mass to form about 10,000 stars similar to our own sun.
Recent images from the Spitzer infrared telescope of this region, show danger zones surrounding several of these blue hot stars. Dangerous? Dangerous to surrounding stars where planet formation is beginning to occur. Current theoretical models of solar system formation point to planet formation in the rotating gas clouds surrounding protostars. If the fierce winds of the hot blue giant stars in NGC 2244 are prematurely blowing away the gas clouds surrounding their smaller neighbors, planet formation will likely be negatively impacted. Even this rose has it's thorns.
Image acquisition information:
Date: January 2012
Location: Starlodge observatory, Ione, CA
Telescope: Planewave 12.5
Camera: SBIG STL 11000
Data ratio: 60:120:60:60:60