Behind the nebulous beauty of this newly-released portrait of a stellar nursery is a violent battle that will end only one way: The death of Gum 15.
Taken as part of the ESO Cosmic Gems program, the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile zoomed-in on the stellar nursery to reveal its intricate glowing detail. The nebula is located approximately 3,000 light-years from Earth.
Gum 15 is known as a HII region, where ionized hydrogen generates a very specific type of radiation. Through the re-capture of electrons by the hydrogen ions, astronomers can detect the reddish glow generated by these regions.
Stellar nurseries such as these are highly ionized by the intense radiation from the baby stars cocooned inside. Inside Gum 15 is one of these stars — HD 74804, the brightest member of the star cluster Collinder 197.
But these young stars don’t only ionize the cloud of gas they were born from. Over time, violent stellar winds from the individual stars will blast away the nebulous material, ripping it apart. The endgame is a cluster of young stars, some that will quickly explode as supernovae, with the once-glowing nebula nowhere to be seen.