Antares and the Rho Ophiuchi Dark Cloud
AAO image reference UKS 4.    « Previous || Next »

Antares and Rho Ophiuchi
Top left is NE. Image width is about 3.5 degrees
Image and text © 1979-2010, Australian Astronomical Observatory
Photograph from UK Schmidt plates by David Malin.

The dusty region between Ophiuchus and Scorpius contains some of the most colourful and spectacular nebulae ever photographed. The upper part of the picture is filled with the bluish glow of light from hot stars reflected by a huge, cool cloud of dust and gas where such stars are born. This dust is also seen as a dark nebula, a molecular cloud, hiding the light of background stars, especially on middle left (east) of the picture.

Dominating the lower half of this cosmic landscape is the over-exposed image of the red supergiant star Antares, a star that it is steadily shedding material from its distended surface as it nears the end of its life. These tiny, smoke-like solid particles reflect Antares' light and hide it in a nebula of its own making. Antares and its nebula are about 600 light years away. Partly surrounding Sigma Scorpii (735 light years distant) at the right of the picture is a red emission nebula, completing the most comprehensive collection of nebular types ever seen in one photograph. There's also two globular clusters, one of the nearest to the sun, M4 (NGC 6121, 4500 light years away) at lower centre right and NGC 6144, 28,000 light years away, buried behind Antares' haze

Like all the images on these pages, this picture was made from three black and white glass negatives. Some care has been taken to ensure that the colours seen here are realistic.

Related images
UKS 30.     The nebula around Antares and NGC 6144
UKS 30a.   Antares and the globular clusters M4 and NGC 6144
Constellation of Scorpius (external site)

For details of object position and photographic exposure, search technical table by UKS reference number.

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Updated by David Malin, 2010, July 25