The latest image of the Rosette Nebula taken by the Herschel Space Observatory reveals previously unseen stars with up to ten times the mass of our Sun. The image is a combination of three different wavelength from the infrared part of spectrum: at 70 microns (blue), 160 microns (green) and 250 microns (red. The raw data was acquired by Herschel’s Photoconductor Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS) and the Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE).
The Rosette Nebula is located about 5,200 light years from Earth and is associated with a larger cloud that contains enough dust and gas to make the equivalent of 10,000 Sun-like stars. The Herschel image shows half of the nebula and most of the Rosette cloud. The massive stars powering the nebula lie to the right of the image but are invisible at these wavelengths. Each color represents a different temperature of dust, from –263ºC (only 10ºC above absolute zero) in the red emission to –233ºC in the blue.
The small spots near the center and in the redder regions of the image are lower mass protostars, similar in mass to the Sun. The bright smudges are dusty cocoons hiding massive protostars. These will eventually become stars containing around ten times the mass of the Sun and will significantly influence the formation of the next generation of stars. The understanding of the formation of high-mass stars in our Galaxy is important because they feed so much light and other forms of energy into their parent cloud they can often trigger the formation of the next generation of stars.