The Omega or Swan Nebula has been a target of astronomical research study for 250 years. Still, astronomers have never been able to get a clear view of the within the structure previously, many thanks to SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy.
SOFIA is NASA‘s flying observatory, a collection of devices aboard a customized Boeing 747SP jetliner airplane that can fly high in the Earth’s environment over the vast bulk of water vapor. This method, its sensitive instruments can identify infrared signals which are very weak or originating from a terrific distance away, when usually the mist would certainly hinder these signals and make them difficult to spot.
Making use of tools such as the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies (GREAT), SOFIA can discover infrared light that is emitted by far-off nebulae. By looking in the infrared wavelength, these instruments can peer via the clouds of dirt, which constitute nebulae, allowing the researchers to peek inside as well as see regions nearer to the center of the framework.
“The present-day nebula holds the secrets that reveal its past; we just need to be able to uncover them,” Wanggi Lim, a Universities Space Research Association scientist at the SOFIA Science Center at NASA’s Ames Research Center, said in a statement. “SOFIA lets us do this, so we can understand why the nebula looks the way it does today.”
The dust is not the only thing that makes seeing the stars at the center of the galaxy hard. The central region shines brilliantly, so detectors on the majority of telescopes are filled, “similar to an overexposed photo,” according to NASA. SOFIA uses an instrument called FORCAST, or the Faint Object Infrared Camera for the SOFIA Telescope, which can see into the interior of the nebula as well as examine the different regions within it, revealing that these regions created in separate ruptures of celebrity birth across the nebula’s history.
“This is the most detailed view of the nebula we have ever had at these wavelengths,” Jim De Buizer, a senior scientist also at the SOFIA Science Center, said in the statement. “It’s the first time we can see some of its youngest, massive stars and start to truly understand how it evolved into the iconic nebula we see today.”