1. Monday, March 14, 2016: 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT, 4-5:30 PM CDT): We welcome CHRIS ATHERTON, ART DULA, & J. BUCKNER HIGHTOWER to discuss the UK Northern Space Consortium.
2. Tuesday, March 15, 2016: 7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT): We welcome back DR. EDMUND STORMS for updates with LENR.
3. Friday, March 18, 2016: 2016; 9:30-11AM PDT; (12:30-2 PM EDT; 11:30AM – 1 PM CDT. We welcome back DR. BENNY PEISER of the UK for climate satellite update info as well as UK and European space updates.
4. Sunday, March 20 2016: 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT): We welcome back DR. HAYM BENAROYA to discuss his ideas for self-inflating lunar structures including a lunar elevator.
The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.
Check out the Space Access ’16 Conference in Phoenix, April 7-9. I’ve been attending the annual Space Access Society meeting since 1998 and it continues to be my favorite conference. This year I will participate in two panels.
Here is the latest update:
Space Access Society’s 2016 conference on the technology, business, and politics of radically cheaper space transportation will feature a cross-section of the growing cheap access community, talking about what’s going on now and what will be happening next, in an intensive informal atmosphere, single-track throughout so you don’t have to miss anything.
Confirmed launch-project & space-industry presenters so far: Agile Aero, CubeCab, DARPA XS-1, EXOS Aerospace Systems & Technologies, Frontier Astronautics, Lasermotive, Masten Space Systems, Moon Express, Nanoracks, Spaceport America, Tethers Unlimited, United Launch Alliance, Unreasonable Rocket, XCOR Aerospace.
We’ll also feature essential space writers, bloggers, innovators, and policy leaders including Mitch Clapp, Jeff Foust, Jon Goff, Jeff Greason, Gary Hudson, Jordin Kare, Clark Lindsey, Charles Lurio, Dave Masten, Doug Messier, Jim Muncy, Dave Salt, John Schilling, Rand Simberg, and Henry Spencer for a variety of presentations and panels, as well as progress reports on high-end student & amateur rocket hardware projects.
Our major additional focus this year is, now that a thriving low-cost space transportation industry is near, What’s Needed for The Next Thirty Years? This year’s conference has numerous presentations and panels related to the policy decisions and technology directions needed for Beyond Low Orbit: The Next Step Out.
Space Access has been described as a “Hackers” conference for rocket people, with better content than many other space conferences costing many times more. It’s two-and-a-half days of total immersion in making the future happen. This year’s edition, SA’16, is just weeks away – make those travel arrangements now, reserve your room while our hotel still hasn’t filled up, register online while you still can, and be there!
Full Conference Info at http://space-access.org/updates/sa16info.html
Conference Registration at http://space-access.org/updates/sa16PreRegister.html
(SA’16 sessions run from ~1 pm Thursday April 7th through ~6 pm Saturday April 9th.)
The latest TMRO.tv weekly program is now available on line: How do we make space exploration politically relevant? – #Cosmopolitics – TMRO
Space news discussed:
* Ariane 5 • Eutelsat 65 West A Launch
* PSLV • IRNSS 1F Launch
* Soyuz Scrubs?
* ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter rolls out to the launchpad
* NASA’s Exploration Mission 2 in flux
* March 8th/9th 2016 Total Solar Eclipse
* Blue Origin Factory Tour
* NASA’s InSight Mission escapes cancellation, will fly in 2018
* SpaceX Updates
TMRO is viewer supported:
TMRO Live is a crowd funded show. If you like what you see consider heading over to http://www.patreon.com/tmro and contributing. You’ll get some awesome access to rewards and content too!
Here is a video of Stephen Wolfram’s recent SETI Institute seminar: SETI and the Computational Universe – SETI Institute
Dr Stephen Wolfram, founder & CEO of Wolfram Research, and creator of Mathematica, Wolfram|Alpha and the Wolfram Language will come to the SETI Institute to discuss his latest thinking about the relation between searching for complex behavior in the computational universe of simple programs, using this in creating AI, and searching for intelligence elsewhere in our physical universe.
Here is this week’s Space to Ground report from NASA on activities related to the International Space Station (ISS):
And here is a video update on the research aboard the ISS:
Montreal artist Bettina Forget has drawn all the craters on the Moon named after women:
- Artist draws moon’s craters named after women to illustrate inequality – The Globe and Mail
- The women on the moon – The Globe and Mail – Photo gallery of the drawings
“Bruce crater: Catherine Wolfe Bruce (1816-1900), philanthropist and patron of astronomy. Between 1889 and 1899 she provided funding for major astronomical instruments at observatories in the U.S. and Germany.” Credits: Bettina Forget
This video shows a small sample of the many magnificent images of the Martian surface taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter MRO during its first 10 years of operation:
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has clocked more than a decade of service at the Red Planet and has yielded scientific discoveries and magnificent views of a distant world. These images taken by MRO’s HiRISE camera are not in true color because they are optimized for geological science.
Here is a release from NASA noting the 10 year milestone:
True to its purpose, the big NASA spacecraft that began orbiting Mars a decade ago this week has delivered huge advances in knowledge about the Red Planet.
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has revealed in unprecedented detail a planet that held diverse wet environments billions of years ago and remains dynamic today.
One example of MRO’s major discoveries was published last year, about the possibility of liquid water being present seasonally on present-day Mars. It drew on three key capabilities researchers gained from this mission: telescopic camera resolution to find features narrower than a driveway; spacecraft longevity to track seasonal changes over several Martian years; and imaging spectroscopy to map surface composition.Other discoveries have resulted from additional capabilities of the orbiter. These include identifying underground geologic structures, scanning atmospheric layers and observing the entire planet’s weather daily. All six of the orbiter’s science instruments remain productive in an extended mission more than seven years after completion of the mission’s originally planned primary science phase.
“This mission has helped us appreciate how much Mars — a planet that has changed greatly over time — continues to change today,” said MRO Project Scientist Rich Zurek of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. JPL manages the mission.
Data from MRO have improved knowledge about three distinct periods on Mars. Observations of the oldest surfaces on the planet show that diverse types of watery environments existed — some more favorable for life than others. More recently, water cycled as a gas between polar ice deposits and lower-latitude deposits of ice and snow, generating patterns of layering linked to cyclical changes similar to ice ages on Earth.
Dynamic activity on today’s Mars includes fresh craters, avalanches, dust storms, seasonal freezing and thawing of carbon dioxide sheets, and summertime seeps of brine.
The mission provides three types of crucial support for rover and stationary lander missions to Mars. Its observations enable careful evaluation of potential landing sites. They also help rover teams choose routes and destinations. Together with NASA’s Mars Odyssey, which has been orbiting Mars since 2001, MRO relays data from robots on Mars’ surface to NASA Deep Space Network antennas on Earth, multiplying the productivity of the surface missions.
The mission has been investigating areas proposed as landing sites for future human missions in NASA’s Journey to Mars.
“The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter remains a powerful asset for studying the Red Planet, with its six instruments all continuing capably a decade after orbit insertion. All this and the valuable infrastructure support that it provides for other Mars missions, present and future, make MRO a keystone of the current Mars Exploration Program,” said Zurek.
Arrival at Mars
On March 10, 2006, the spacecraft fired its six largest rocket engines for about 27 minutes, slowing it down enough for the gravity of Mars to catch it into orbit. Those engines had been used only once before, for 15 seconds during the first trajectory adjustment during the seven-month flight from Earth to Mars. They have been silent since arrival day. Smaller engines provide thrust for orbit adjustment maneuvers.
For its first three weeks at Mars, the spacecraft flew elongated, 35-hour orbits ranging as far as 27,000 miles (43,000 kilometers) from the Red Planet. During the next six months, a process called aerobraking used hundreds of carefully calculated dips into the top of the Martian atmosphere to gradually adjust the size of the orbit. Since September 2006, the craft has been flying nearly circular orbits lasting about two hours, at altitudes from 155 to 196 miles (250 to 316 kilometers).
The spacecraft’s two large solar panels give MRO a wingspan the length of a school bus. That surface area helped with atmospheric drag during aerobraking and still cranks out about 2,000 watts of electricity when the panels face the sun. Generous power enables the spacecraft to transmit a torrent of data through its main antenna, a dish 10 feet (3 meters) in diameter. The total science data sent to Earth from MRO — 264 terabits — is more than all other interplanetary missions combined, past and present.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft with the capability to transmit copious data to suit the science goals of revealing Mars in great detail, which requires plenty of data.
For example, the mission’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera, managed by the University of Arizona, Tucson, has returned images that show features as small as a desk anywhere in observations that now have covered about 2.4 percent of the Martian surface, an area equivalent to two Alaskas, with many locations imaged repeatedly. The Context Camera (CTX), managed by Malin Space Systems, San Diego, has imaged more than 95 percent of Mars, with resolution showing features smaller than a tennis court. The Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer (CRISM), managed by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, also has imaged nearly 98 percent of the planet in multiple visual-light and infrared wavelengths, providing composition information at scales of 100 to 200 yards or meters per pixel.
For more information about MRO, visit:
For more information about NASA’s journey to Mars, visit: www.nasa.gov/topics/journeytomars
The latest European Southern Observatory (ESO) report:
Sharpest View Ever of Dusty Disc Around Aging Star
VLTI finds discs around aging stars similar to those around young ones
The Very Large Telescope Interferometer at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile has obtained the sharpest view ever of the dusty disc around an aging star. For the first time such features can be compared to those around young stars — and they look surprisingly similar. It is even possible that a disc appearing at the end of a star’s life might also create a second generation of planets.
As they approach the ends of their lives many stars develop stable discs of gas and dust around them. This material was ejected by stellar winds, whilst the star was passing through the red giant stage of its evolution. These discs resemble those that form planets around young stars. But up to now astronomers have not been able to compare the two types, formed at the beginning and the end of the stellar life cycle.
Although there are many discs associated with young stars that are sufficiently near to us to be studied in depth, there are no corresponding old stars with discs that are close enough for us to obtain detailed images.
But this has now changed. A team of astronomers led by Michel Hillen and Hans Van Winckel from the Instituut voor Sterrenkunde in Leuven, Belgium, has used the full power of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile, armed with the PIONIER instrument, and the newly upgraded RAPID detector.
Their target was the old double star IRAS 08544-4431 , lying about 4000 light-years from Earth in the southern constellation of Vela (The Sails). This double star consists of a red giant star, which expelled the material in the surrounding dusty disc, and a less-evolved more normal star orbiting close to it.
Jacques Kluska, team member from Exeter University, United Kingdom, explains:
“By combining light from several telescopes of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, we obtained an image of stunning sharpness — equivalent to what a telescope with a diameter of 150 metres would see. The resolution is so high that, for comparison, we could determine the size and shape of a one euro coin seen from a distance of two thousand kilometres.”
Thanks to the unprecedented sharpness of the images  from the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, and a new imaging technique that can remove the central stars from the image to reveal what lies around them, the team could dissect all the building blocks of the IRAS 08544-4431 system for the first time.
This video takes the viewer deep into a spectacular region of the southern Milky Way in the constellation of Vela (The Sails). We pass many interesting objects, including star formation regions and the blue filaments of a supernova remnant, before closing in on the faint star IRAS 08544-4431. This aging object is surrounded by a dusty disc that has been clearly resolved for the first time by the Very Large Telescope Interferometer at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. Credit: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2/N. Risinger (skysurvey.org). Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin. Music: Johan B. Monell (www.johanmonell.com)
The most prominent feature of the image is the clearly resolved ring. The inner edge of the dust ring, seen for the first time in these observations, corresponds very well with the expected start of the dusty disc: closer to the stars, the dust would evaporate in the fierce radiation from the stars.
“We were also surprised to find a fainter glow that is probably coming from a small accretion disc around the companion star. We knew the star was double, but weren’t expecting to see the companion directly. It is really thanks to the jump in performance now provided by the new detector in PIONIER, that we are able to view the very inner regions of this distant system,”
adds lead author Michel Hillen.
The team finds that discs around old stars are indeed very similar to the planet-forming ones around young stars. Whether a second crop of planets can really form around these old stars is yet to be determined, but it is an intriguing possibility.
“Our observations and modelling open a new window to study the physics of these discs, as well as stellar evolution in double stars. For the first time the complex interactions between close binary systems and their dusty environments can now be resolved in space and time,”
concludes Hans Van Winckel.
The Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop (TVIW) recently initiated a Youtube video series titled, From Here to the Stars, that consists of interviews with scientists and leading thinkers in the area of interstellar travel. Here are the first four entries in the series:
In Episode 1, Stephen Euin Cobb, Host of “Future and You” podcast, interviews Marc G. Millis, Founder and Director of Tau Zero Foundation, in association with Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop (Les Johnson, Executive Producer).
In Episode 2, Stephen Euin Cobb, Host of “Future and You” podcast, interviews Dr. Louis D. Friedman, Co-Founder of The Planetary Society with Carl Sagan and Bruce C. Murray and Planetary Society Executive Director Emeritus, in association with Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop (Les Johnson, Executive Producer).
In Episode 3, Stephen Euin Cobb, Host of “Future and You” podcast, interviews Dr. Philip Lubin, a professor of Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara and a co-recipient of the 2006 Gruber Prize in Cosmology along with the COBE science team for their groundbreaking work in cosmology. This series is produced in association with Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop (Les Johnson, Executive Producer).
See the see DEEP-IN webpage for more about the work of Lubin’s group at UCSB on “Directed Energy Interstellar Precursors”.
In Episode 4, Stephen Euin Cobb, Host of “Future and You” podcast, interviews Dr. Gregory L. Matloff, Emeritus Associate and Adjunct Associate Professor of Physics at New York City College of Technology (NYCCT), Fellow of the British interplanetary Society, and Hayden Associate at the American Museum of Natural History. This series is produced in association with Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop (Les Johnson, Executive Producer).
And here is a new science report today:
“Ceres has defied our expectations and surprised us in many ways, thanks to a year’s worth of data from Dawn. We are hard at work on the mysteries the spacecraft has presented to us,” said Carol Raymond, deputy principal investigator for the mission, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.Among Ceres’ most enigmatic features is a tall mountain the Dawn team named Ahuna Mons. This mountain appeared as a small, bright-sided bump on the surface as early as February 2015 from a distance of 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers), before Dawn was captured into orbit. As Dawn circled Ceres at increasingly lower altitudes, the shape of this mysterious feature began to come into focus. From afar, Ahuna Mons looked to be pyramid-shaped, but upon closer inspection, it is best described as a dome with smooth, steep walls.
Dawn’s latest images of Ahuna Mons, taken 120 times closer than in February 2015, reveal that this mountain has a lot of bright material on some of its slopes, and less on others. On its steepest side, it is about 3 miles (5 kilometers) high. The mountain has an average overall height of 2.5 miles (4 kilometers). It rises higher than Washington’s Mount Rainier and California’s Mount Whitney.
Scientists are beginning to identify other features on Ceres that could be similar in nature to Ahuna Mons, but none is as tall and well-defined as this mountain.
“No one expected a mountain on Ceres, especially one like Ahuna Mons,” said Chris Russell, Dawn’s principal investigator at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We still do not have a satisfactory model to explain how it formed.”
About 420 miles (670 kilometers) northwest of Ahuna Mons lies the now-famous Occator Crater. Before Dawn arrived at Ceres, images of the dwarf planet from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope showed a prominent bright patch on the surface. As Dawn approached Ceres, it became clear that there were at least two spots with high reflectivity. As the resolution of images improved, Dawn revealed to its earthly followers that there are at least 10 bright spots in this crater alone, with the brightest area on the entire body located in the center of the crater. It is not yet clear whether this bright material is the same as the material found on Ahuna Mons.
“Dawn began mapping Ceres at its lowest altitude in December, but it wasn’t until very recently that its orbital path allowed it to view Occator’s brightest area. This dwarf planet is very large and it takes a great many orbital revolutions before all of it comes into view of Dawn’s camera and other sensors,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer and mission director at JPL.
Researchers will present new images and other insights about Ceres at the 47th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, during a press briefing on March 22 in The Woodlands, Texas.
When it arrived at Ceres on March 6, 2015, Dawn made history as the first mission to reach a dwarf planet, and the first to orbit two distinct extraterrestrial targets. The mission conducted extensive observations of Vesta in 2011-2012.
Dawn’s mission is managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate’s Discovery Program, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital ATK Inc., in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Italian Space Agency and Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team. For a complete list of mission participants, visit: http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission
More information about Dawn is available at the following sites:
1. Monday, March 7, 2016: 2-3:30 PM PST: We welcome back ROBERT WALKER from the UK for a discussion about Mars and HSF. Check out his writings at www.science20.com/space.
2. Tuesday, March 8, 2016: 7-8:30 PM PST (10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CST): We welcome ROLAND MILLER to discuss his new book, Abandoned in Place: Preserving America’s Space History.
3. Friday, March 11, 2016: 2016; 9:30-11AM PST; (12:30-2 PM EST; 11:30AM – 1 PM CST. We welcome back DR. CATHARINE (Cassie) CONLEY, the Director of the NASA Office of Planetary Protection.
4. Sunday, March 13 2016: 12-1:30 PM PST (3-4:30 PM EST, 2-3:30 PM CST): This is an OPEN LINES discussion. All STEM, space, and STEAM topics are welcome. First Time callers are welcome.
The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.
Now that we have completed a #YearInSpace the crew of TMRO asks: What is our Path to Mars from here?
Space news topics covered:
* SpaceX Finally launches SES-9
* Methane snow has been found on Pluto
* China to launch new space lab later this year
* Asteroid 2013TX68 to make close pass on March 8th
* NASA slips schedule of Asteroid Redirect Mission
TMRO is viewer supported:
TMRO Live Shows are crowd funded. If you like this episode consider contributing to help us to continue to improve. Head over to http://www.patreon.com/tmro for information, goals and reward levels. Don’t forget to check out our SpacePod campaign as well over at http://www.patreon.com/spacepod
In this SETI Institute seminar, Dr. Andrew Siemion, Director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center (BSRC) at the University of California, Berkeley, gives an excellent review of SETI projects past, present, and future and includes an
overview of the Breakthrough Listen Initiative, 100-million-dollar, 10-year search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Dr. Siemion will also discuss other SETI efforts ongoing at the BSRC, including the successful citizen science project SETI@Home, as well as a concerted effort to undertake panchromatic observations of the mysterious Kepler star KIC 8462852
Below is a TMRO.tv Space Pod short report on students communicating with crew members on the Int. Space Station via its amateur radio station: Amateur Radio on the International Space Station – Space Pod 3/2/16 – TMRO
Students all over the world are talking to the space station using amateur radio. TMRO correspondent Lisa Stojanovski discusses how schools can get involved, and how an Australian, Tony Hutchinson, is helping it all happen.
See the recent posting here on astronaut Sunita Williams’ comments about the ISS ham radio station. As mention there, you can check the ARISS Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) website for info on how to arrange for your local school to have a ham radio session with the ISS.
TMRO is viewer supported:
TMRO Space Pods are crowd funded shows. If you like this episode consider contributing to help us to continue to improve. Head over to http://www.patreon.com/spacepod for information, goals and reward levels. Don’t forget to check out our weekly live show campaign as well over at http://www.patreon.com/tmro
Here is the latest of NASA’s weekly Space to Ground reports on recent activities related to the Int. Space Station:
Aurora Flight Sciences has beaten several much bigger companies for a DARPA contract to build a vertical take off and landing demonstration vehicle that has much higher performance that helicopters or tiltrotor designs like the Osprey now in operation: DARPA Selects Aurora to Build VTOL X-Plane Technology Demonstrator
Aurora’s LightningStrike has an unusual design with 24 electric ducted-fans distributed along the wing and canard and driven by an on-board generator.
The technology demonstrator was designed in close collaboration with Aurora’s team members, Rolls-Royce PLC and Honeywell International Inc. The Aurora-led team intends to deliver a number of aviation milestones with the demonstration aircraft, including being the first aircraft designed to demonstrate:
- Distributed hybrid-electric propulsion ducted fans
- An innovative synchronous electric-drive system
- Both tilt-wing- and tilt-canard-based propulsion for vertical takeoff and landing
- High efficiency in both hover and high-speed forward flight
The aircraft design features a Rolls-Royce AE 1107C turboshaft engine that would power three Honeywell generators, and 24 ducted fans distributed on both the wings and canards. The aircraft’s electric distributed propulsion (EDP) system would consist of highly integrated, distributed ducted fans that, combined with the synchronous electric drive system, would enable the design’s potentially revolutionary hover efficiency and high-speed forward flight.
This video animation illustrates how the Lightning Strike will operate:
A documentary series of short films about the Google Lunar XPRIZE will be released later this month:
Academy Award®-nominated director Orlando von Einsiedel, Executive Producer J.J. Abrams, Bad Robot and Epic Digital have joined forces with Google and XPRIZE to create a documentary web series about the people competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE. The Google Lunar XPRIZE is the largest prize competition of all time with a reward of $30 million and aims to incentivize entrepreneurs to create a new era of affordable access to the Moon and beyond, while inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers, and explorers.
This character-driven, emotional, awe-inspiring series of 9 short films will follow a selection of the teams currently racing to complete their missions. It will explore the lives of their charismatic, quirky members, the sacrifices they have made to get to where they are today, and crucially, what drives them on this incredible journey.
Here is the trailer:
- Trailer for ‘Moon Shot’ series will make you want to race to the stars – Mashable
- J.J. Abrams Producing Docu-Series on Google’s $30 Million Moon-Landing Project – Variety
The nine-episode series will premiere on Google Play on March 15 for free, and on the Google Lunar Xprize YouTube channel on March 17. Each episode is about 7 minutes and all episodes will be released in one batch.
Here is a new report from the European Southern Observatory (ESO):
In this huge new image clouds of crimson gas are illuminated by rare, massive stars that have only recently ignited and are still buried deep in thick dust clouds. These scorching-hot, very young stars are only fleeting characters on the cosmic stage and their origins remain mysterious. The vast nebula where these giants were born, along with its rich and fascinating surroundings, are captured here in fine detail by ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.
RCW 106 is a sprawling cloud of gas and dust located about 12 000 light-years away in the southern constellation of Norma (The Carpenter’s Square). The region gets its name from being the 106th entry in a catalogue of H II regions in the southern Milky Way . H II regions like RCW 106 are clouds of hydrogen gas that are being ionised by the intense starlight of scorching-hot, young stars, causing them to glow and display weird and wonderful shapes.
RCW 106 itself is the red cloud above centre in this new image, although much of this huge H II region is hidden by dust and it is much more extensive than the visible part. Many other unrelated objects are also visible in this wide-field VST image. For example, the filaments to the right of the image are the remnants of an ancient supernova, and the glowing red filaments at the lower left surround an unusual and very hot star . Patches of dark obscuring dust are also visible across the entire cosmic landscape.
Astronomers have been studying RCW 106 for some time, although it is not the crimson clouds that draw their attention, but rather the mysterious origin of the massive and powerful stars buried within. Although they are very bright, these stars cannot be seen in visible-light images such as this one as the surrounding dust is too thick, but they make their presence clear in images of the region at longer wavelengths.
This video takes a close-up look at a huge image of part of the southern constellation of Norma (The Carpenter’s Square) where wisps of crimson gas are illuminated by rare, massive stars that have only recently ignited and are still buried deep in thick dust clouds. These scorching-hot, very young stars are only fleeting characters on the cosmic stage and their origins remain mysterious. The vast nebula where these giants were born, known as RCW 106, is captured here in fine detail by ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST), at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.
The sequence starts with a view of RCW 104, filaments glowing in the intense radiation from a Wolf-Rayet star, passes over the supernova remnant RCW 103, and finally settles on RCW 106 itself.
For less massive stars like the Sun the process that brings them into existence is quite well understood — as clouds of gas are pulled together under gravity, density and temperature increase, and nuclear fusion begins — but for the most massive stars buried in regions like RCW 106 this explanation does not seem to be fully adequate. These stars — known to astronomers as O-type stars — may have masses many dozens of times the mass of the Sun and it is not clear how they manage to gather, and keep together, enough gas to form.
O-type stars likely form from the densest parts of the nebular clouds like RCW 106 and they are notoriously difficult to study. Apart from obscuration by dust, another challenge is the brevity of an O-type star’s life. They burn through their nuclear fuel in mere tens of millions of years, while the lightest stars have lifetimes that span many tens of billions of years. The difficulty of forming a star of this mass, and the shortness of their lifetimes, means that they are very rare — only one in every three million stars in our cosmic neighbourhood is an O-type star. None of those that do exist are close enough for detailed investigation and so the formation of these fleeting stellar giants remains mysterious, although their outsized influence is unmistakeable in glowing H II regions like this one.Notes
 The supernova remnant is SNR G332.4-00.4, also known as RCW 103. It is about 2000 years old. The lower filaments are RCW 104, surrounding the Wolf–Rayet star WR 75. Although these objects bear RCW numbers, detailed later investigations revealed that neither of them were HII regions.