Antares and Reflection Nebula around Rho Ophiuchus Universe Postcard
On the border between the southern constellations of Ophiuchus and Scorpius are some of the faintest yet most spectacular nebulae every photographed. The different shades of color are probably an indication of the nature of the dust that the stars create and that swirls between them.
The Constellation Ophiuchus is one of the larger constellations in the equatorial section of the sky. Although the Ophiuchus constellation is not included in the original Zodiac, the sun now passes through this constellation each December. The sun did not pass through the Ophiuchus constellation 3000 years ago when the Babylonians created the 12 Zodiac signs, but has since joined the other 12 constellations in the sun’s path due to the precession of the Earth.
The Rho Ophiuchus Nebula Complex (IC4604) and the surrounding area lies within the Ophiuchus Constellation, and is one of the most interesting and beautiful areas in the entire sky. Featuring the bright star Antares, the Ophiuchi Triple Star and surrounding IC4604 Reflection Nebula, M4 Globular Cluster, and the smaller NGC 6144 Globular Cluster, as well as various dark nebula, this area holds something of interest for any astronomer or deep space imager. The beautiful blue IC 4604 reflection nebula surrounding the Rho Ophiuchi Triple Star is one of the standout features in this area. It is a result of interstellar dust that is illuminated by nearby stars. The red areas of this image are red emission nebulae that are created by hydrogen gas emitting light. The dark areas are not blank sky, but dark nebula where thick dust clouds are obscuring background stars. The giant red-giant star Antares dominates the image and is surrounded by subtle and unusual yellow reflection nebulosity. Antares is approximately 700 times larger and 9000 more luminous than our Sun.
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