Explore the mesmerizing Sh2-284 nebula, known as the "Smiling cat" nebula, captured by the VLT Survey Telescope, revealing the vibrant star cluster Dolidze 25 and its formative effects on the nebula.
A vibrant display of orange and red is illuminated in the expansive Sh2-284 nebula, popularly known as the “Smiling cat” nebula. This breathtaking spectacle was captured using data from the VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory (ESO).
The captured image reveals the nebula’s brightest section, spanning approximately 150 light-years or 1,400 trillion kilometers. This cosmic phenomenon is situated around 15,000 light-years from Earth, nestled within the Monoceros constellation.
“Smiling cat” nebula
Within the nebula’s most luminous region, just beneath the ‘cat’s nose,’ resides a cluster of nascent stars known as Dolidze 25. Emitting vast amounts of radiation and robust winds, these stars significantly impact their surroundings.
Their radiation is sufficiently potent to ionize the hydrogen gas within the cloud, generating the nebula’s vivid orange and red hues. These types of gaseous clouds are pivotal, serving as the building blocks for future star creation.
Stellar Winds and Pillars of Creation
The strong winds, originating from the Dolidze 25-star cluster, sculpt the nebula’s landscape by eroding gas and dust, carving a hollow center. The winds’ encounter with denser material pockets, however, leads to increased resistance, thus eroding the surrounding areas first.
This process results in the formation of numerous pillars that line the edges of Sh2-284, pointing towards its center. These pillars may appear small in the image, but they span several light-years across, housing vast quantities of gas and dust that serve as nurseries for new stars.
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