The awe-inspiring Lupus 3, an immense interstellar cloud where stars are born, has been captured in all its glory by the extraordinary 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera fabricated by the US Department of Energy. Situated at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, operated by NSF’s NOIRLab, this magnificent celestial object unveils a pair of nascent stars bursting forth from their dusty and gaseous cocoons, casting their luminosity upon the surrounding reflection nebula known as Bernes 149. The stark contrast between these regions makes Lupus 3 an exceptional focal point for scientific inquiry into the processes of star formation.
The clash between energy and matter yields remarkable phenomena on our own planet, such as shimmering auroras and intense lightning displays. Similarly, the vastness of space witnesses a comparable interplay, where the radiant energy emanating from youthful, radiant stars and protostars floods their immediate surroundings, illuminating expansive interstellar clouds comprised of dust and gas. These celestial showcases, known as reflection nebulae, epitomize the grandeur resulting from this cosmic interaction.
A stellar exemplification of these juxtaposed forces is the Lupus 3 interstellar cloud, meticulously captured by the US Department of Energy’s Dark Energy Camera, boasting an astounding 570-megapixel resolution. Nestled within the constellation Lupus (the Wolf), this celestial nebula actively fosters the birth of new stars, situated approximately 500 light-years away from Earth.
At the heart of this sprawling nebula, we find a pair of brilliant blue stars, designated HR 5999 and HR 6000, bestowing their radiance upon the adjacent gas and dust, thereby giving birth to the resplendent blue-hued reflection nebula Bernes 149. Originating from the shroud-like Lupus 3 dark nebula, which blankets the stellar backdrop, these stars provide a striking contrast against their surroundings. Notably, Lupus 3 harbors a congregation of youthful stars called T Tauri stars, poised to utilize the resources within this cloud to mature into fully-fledged celestial bodies.
HR 5999 and HR 6000, clocking in at a relatively youthful age of approximately 1 million years, hold the distinction of being the most senior stars within the expanse of the Lupus 3 vicinity. Classified as pre-main-sequence stars, these luminous entities rely not on nuclear fusion akin to our sun but instead derive their energy from the gravitational forces that compress and heat the internal matter. By sweeping away neighboring gas and dust, these sibling stars bring illumination to the residual matter, resulting in the captivating spectacle of the Bernes 149 reflection nebula.
Astronomers initially beheld this nebula with anticipation, hoping that it, along with similar regions, would serve as fruitful indicators of areas where recent or ongoing star formation takes place. This intuition proved well-founded, as Lupus 3 has since granted valuable insights into the nascent stages of stellar birth.
Nestled within the expansive Lupus cloud complex, Lupus 3 stands among a minimum of nine distinct cloud formations. Its vast expanse spans a region of the celestial sphere equivalent to approximately 24 times the diameter of the moon, as observed from our vantage point on Earth. The formidable capabilities of the DECcam, boasting an impressive 2.2-degree field of view, enable the capture of colossal objects like Lupus 3 within a single frame. This seamless amalgamation of DECcam’s wide-field prowess and the light-gathering capacity of the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope’s generous 4-meter-wide mirror culminate in the production of sharp, high-resolution imagery.