The Omega Nebula, also known as the Swan Nebula, is located in the rich starfields of the Sagittarius area of the Milky Way. A recent image of SOFIA shows the blue areas near the center and the green areas formed separately to create the shape of a swan. Spitzer, an infrared space telescope, detected the rich starfield.
Believe it or not, the Omega or Swan Nebula has been an essential astronomical objective for about 250 years, and now, thanks to SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, we get to see a clear image of the inside of the structure. And oh my, what a treasure to look at.
What is SOFIA exactly?
The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy is NASA’s flying observatory. The aircraft can fly very high into our planet’s atmosphere above the immense majority of water vapor, detecting infrared signals that are very low or from far away with the help of other instruments such as the German astronomer receiver at Terahertz Frequencies (GREAT).
“The current mist has the secrets that reveal its past; we should only be able to discover them, “said Wanggi Lim, a scientist at Universities Space Research Association at the SOFIA Science Center of the Ames Research Center of NASA.” SOFIA lets us do this so that we can understand why the mist looks like today.”
NASA’s SOFIA Shows How the Swan Nebula ‘Born’
The center of the nebula blazes extremely brightly, which causes the detectors of most telescopes to saturate, “similar to an overexposed photo,” according to NASA. Another instrument used by SOFIA is FORCAST, Faint Object Infrared Camera for the SOFIA telescope. FORCAST can see inside of the nebula and examine different areas within it, disclosing these areas in individual bursts of star birth over the history of the galaxy.
“This is the most detailed representation of the nebula we’ve ever had at these wavelengths,” said Jim De Buizer, a senior scientist at the SOFIA Science Center. “It is the first time that we have seen some of its youngest, massive stars and are beginning to understand how it has evolved into the iconic nebula we see today.”