Star-Forming Region S106

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NASA's Hubble Space Telescope presents a festive holiday greeting that's out of this world. The bipolar star-forming region, called Sharpless 2-106, looks like a soaring, celestial snow angel. The outstretched "wings" of the nebula record the contrasting imprint of heat and motion against the backdrop of a colder medium.

Sharpless 2-106, Sh2-106 or S106 for short, lies nearly 2,000 light-years from us. The nebula measures several light-years in length. It appears in a relatively isolated region of the Milky Way galaxy.

A massive, young star, IRS 4 (Infrared Source 4), is responsible for the furious activity we see in the nebula. Twin lobes of super-hot gas, glowing blue in this image, stretch outward from the central star. This hot gas creates the "wings" of our angel.

A ring of dust and gas orbiting the star acts like a belt, cinching the expanding nebula into an "hourglass" shape. Hubble's sharp resolution reveals ripples and ridges in the gas as it interacts with the cooler interstellar medium.

Dusky red veins surround the blue emission from the nebula. The faint light emanating from the central star reflects off of tiny dust particles. This illuminates the environment around the star, showing darker filaments of dust winding beneath the blue lobes.

Detailed studies of the nebula have also uncovered several hundred brown dwarfs. At purely infrared wavelengths, more than 600 of these sub-stellar objects appear. These "failed" stars weigh less than a tenth of our Sun. Because of their low mass, they cannot produce sustained energy through nuclear fusion like our Sun does. They encompass the nebula in a small cluster.

The Hubble images were taken in February 2011 with the Wide Field Camera 3. Visible narrow-band filters that isolate the hydrogen gas were combined with near-infrared filters that show structure in the cooler gas and dust.

Release Date: December 15, 2011

Credit: NASAESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Hubble/Subaru Composite image of Star-Forming Region S106

Hubble Space Telescope's high resolution combines with the Subaru Telescope's wide field-of-view to reveal a depiction of star-forming region S106 that is not possible from either telescope alone. The bipolar S106 shows bright gas in two distinct lobes. The faint stars located near the nebulosity are brown dwarf candidates associated with the region of star formation.

This composite image combines optical and near-infrared astronomical data from the Hubble Space Telescope with mid-infrared data from the ground-based Subaru Telescope, located on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. The Hubble data (H-alpha, J, and H) were taken as part of Hubble Heritage observations of S106 in February 2011. The Subaru data (JH, and K) were obtained in May 1999.

Release Date: December 15, 2011

Credit: NASAESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), and the Subaru Telescope (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan)