Wednesday, May 25, 2022

An island in a silent night sky

An island in the Maldives, suspended in the waters of the Indian Ocean, watches the silent sight of the sky.

In the image, traversed horizontally by the wake of the Milky Way, we find several very interesting celestial objects. 

The image is centred around the four stars of the Southern Cross, one of the most famous constellations in the southern hemisphere. The constellation is easily recognizable due to the arrangement and brightness of its stars and is used to identify the position of the south celestial pole. This can be found by extending the distance between Gacrux and Acrux, the two stars located on the major axis of the cross, five southwards.

To the left of the Southern Cross are two other bright stars: Hadar (in blue) and Alpha Centauri (in yellow). These are respectively the second and the brightest star in the constellation of Centaur. Alpha Centauri is actually a triple star system composed of two sun-like stars and a red dwarf. The latter, known as Proxima Centauri, is located 4.2 light years away from Earth and is therefore the closest star ever to the Sun.

On the right of the Southern Cross, red nebulosities are visible. It is the Carina Nebula which, with a diameter of over 250 light-years, is one of the largest H II regions in the entire Milky Way. In the past the nebula has hosted intense stellar formation phenomena, as evidenced by the presence inside it of numerous open clusters and very massive stars.

Credit: Petr Horálek.

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