A reddish cloud of hydrogen gas surrounds a violent stellar cradle in a cloud known as Gum 41, observed here with a 2.2-meter telescope at La Silla Observatory, Chile. (ESO)
A reddish cloud of hydrogen gas surrounds a violent stellar cradle in a cloud known as Gum 41, observed here with a 2.2-meter telescope at La Silla Observatory, Chile. (ESO)

Chicken Nebula’s Beautiful, Violent Stellar Nursery

As on Earth, young stars in space can be a handful. Blustery spasms produce violent stellar winds, tantrums that carve bubbles and cavities into surrounding dust and gas. Belches of intense stellar radiation dump energy into those clouds, exciting atoms and causing them to glow. In the photo above, just released by the European Southern Observatory, a hydrogen gas cloud blasted by these unruly young stars is glowing red.

This stellar nursery lives 7,300 light-years away. It’s parked near the feet of what’s colloquially known as the Running Chicken Nebula — or, more formally, as the Lambda Centauri Nebula, which is visible in the southern constellation of Centaurus. The particular cloud above was catalogued in 1955 by Australian astronomer Colin Gum, which is why it bears the name Gum 41.