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Nebula RCW 36 in Vela: Cloudy with a Chance of Dust | ESO

Nebula RCW 36 in Vela: Cloudy with a Chance of Dust | ESO

This cloud-strewn new image of RCW 36 (or Gum 20) was captured by the European Southern Observatory’s Focal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph (FORS). It shows one of the sites of massive-star formation closest to our Solar System, about 2,300 light-years away. Located in the constellation of Vela (The Sails), the RCW 36 emission nebula is only part of an even larger star formation complex, known as the Vela Molecular Ridge.

Areas in the clouds of RCW 36 are dense enough to block out background light, creating patches and wisps of inky black. Despite the dark appearance of these clouds, they are the only places in the Universe in which star formation occurs; clumps of molecular hydrogen and cosmic dust collapse and come together to form stars encircled by small families of planets, as in our own Solar System.

FORS is mounted on European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), one of the world's most advanced astronomical observatories. This image was selected as part of the ESO Cosmic Gems program, an initiative that produces images of scientifically interesting and visually attractive objects using ESO telescopes for the purposes of education and public outreach. The program makes use of telescope time that cannot be used for science observations. All data collected may also be suitable for scientific purposes, and are made available to astronomers through ESO’s science archive.

Credit: European Southern Observatory (ESO)

Release Date: Dec. 9, 2019

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