Our solar system floats in an empty bubble a thousand light-years across, but something beautiful is happening at the edge of this bubble.

Our solar system floats in an empty bubble a thousand light-years across, but something beautiful is happening at the edge of this bubble.

Did you know that our solar system is currently floating in an empty bubble in the Milky Way? Still expanding, this bubble sweeps gas and dust to the brim. Many young stars are being formed here.

The Local Bubble is a cavity in the Orion Arm of the Milky Way, where our solar system was also located five to ten million years ago. The bubble is about 1,000 light-years in diameter and has a hydrogen density of 0.05 atoms per cubic centimeter. This makes the Local Bubble about 10 times more emptied than other regions in the Milky Way, with a density of 0.5 hydrogen atoms per cubic centimeter. Astronomers believe that a supernova explosion occurred between 10 and 20 million years ago, creating an empty bubble.

The supernova explosion brought a lot of beauty. There are several star-forming regions at the edge of the bubble, as you can see in the illustration below. One of the star-forming regions is the Chameleon complex. This complex consists of various gas and dust clouds that contain stars or young stars in the process of formation. Chameleon I is the largest in area and consists of 200 to 300 stars.

An artist’s impression of a bubble 1,000 light-years wide surrounding Earth. source: Harvard.

Space photos of the week
The Chameleon 1 region has often been photographed by (amateur) astronomers. Normally we’d only pick one satellite image of the week, but today we’re sharing three beautiful images of this star-forming neighborhood, about 630 light-years from Earth.

the The first satellite image It was taken by astrophotographer Stas Volsky. Here we see the C-shaped Ced 110 reflection nebula (just above and left of center) and the blue Ced 111 reflection nebula below. In Ced 111, an orange V-shaped structure can be seen. This shape was created by collisions with matter from a young star. The region you see here is actually about seventeen light-years across. Click on the image to enlarge it.

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On the The second satellite image From Kameleon we see the young star HH 909A. Young stars are very hungry and collect a lot of material to start nuclear fusion. But before that happens, protostars go through a violent phase, as the stars dump a lot of matter into space. This fast, hot gas collides with clouds of cooler gases in the surrounding region, causing the nebula to glow. The image below was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

In the third image, taken with the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) on the James Webb Telescope, cool blue gas clouds are seen being heated by the young protostar Ced 110 IRS 4 (top left). Countless stars are visible. Scientists can examine the spectrum of these stars: the starlight tells whether ice particles are present.

Scientists recently discovered methanol in Kameleon 1. This is a sign that the exoplanets that formed in this nebula may undergo chemical evolution much like the planets in our solar system. So our solar system may not be unique at all. Good news when it comes to the search for extraterrestrial life.

Over the past few decades, space telescopes and satellites have taken beautiful pictures of nebulae, galaxies, star nurseries, and planets. Every weekend, we relive an amazing space photo from the archives. Enjoy all the pictures? Show them on this page.

Image at the top of this article: Stas Volskiy / Robert Eder

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