We may think our Sun is impressive, but it pales in significance when compared to the red supergiant Antares which burns more than 600 light years away.
In this stunning image Antares glows orange and is surrounded by reflected bright yellow gas and dust. It is considered a bruiser in the Milky Way, with a diameter 800 times that of our Sun and a luminosity which is 10,000 times brighter.
Antarres is the crowning star in the Rho Ophiuchus Nebulae Complex, considered by many astro-photographers to be the most beautiful area of the night sky.
The complex features stunning nebulae, which are huge clouds of interstellar gas and dust. A yellow reflection nebula surrounds Antares and the red areas of this image are created by hydrogen gas in red nebulae emitting light.
To the left of the picture a sensational blue reflection nebula surrounds the Rho Ophiuchi triple star and is a result of interstellar dust that is illuminated by nearby stars.
It also contains dark nebulae in strange murky shapes such as the ‘pipe nebula,’ which appears upside down to the left of Antares, and the ‘Dark River’ that flows down towards the bottom of the picture. Made up of hydrogen gas and thick dust clouds they hide background stars from view.
DRIVING through the countryside south of Hanover, it would be easy to miss the GEO600 experiment. From the outside, it doesn’t look much: in the corner of a field stands an assortment of boxy temporary buildings, from which two long trenches emerge, at a right angle to each other, covered with corrugated iron. Underneath the metal sheets, however, lies a detector that stretches for 600 metres.
For the past seven years, this German set-up has been looking for gravitational waves – ripples in space-time thrown off by super-dense astronomical objects such as neutron stars and black holes. GEO600 has not detected any gravitational waves so far, but it might inadvertently have made the most important discovery in physics for half a century.
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