Satellite image of the week is this beautiful image of the dark globular clouds in stellar nursery IC 2944.

Young stars are born in this cosmic nursery. IC 2944 is located 6,500 light-years from Earth and is also known as the Chicken Running Nebula. The image was taken by ESO’s Very Large Telescope.

Dark clouds of dust can be seen in the image. These are the Thackeray globules, named after the astronomer AD Thackeray who first encountered these globular clouds in IC 2944 in 1950. By the way, he wasn’t the first astronomer to see globular clouds. That honor goes to astronomer Bart Jan Bock. The Dutch-born astronomer became an American citizen in the 1930s and found dark clouds in the Lagoon Nebula (Messier 8) in the 1940s. This discovery Reported in The Astrophysical Journal in 1947. These clouds were thought to be cocoons contracting under gravity and forming star clusters. In the 1990s it turned out that he was right: stars are born in globular clouds.

In this week’s space image, these globules stand out beautifully against the pinkish nebula. Thackeray’s globules are eroding as they are constantly bombarded with ultraviolet light from nearby stars. This will destroy these clouds of dust in the near future, often before they collapse into stars. However, this does not always have to be the case. Inside the largest globular cloud in IC 2944 Six protostars have been found During the Two Micron All Sky survey (2 block).

IC 2944 has been photographed many times in the past, incl by the Hubble Telescope in 2003. Globular clouds are also clearly visible in this image.

Over the past few decades, space telescopes and satellites have taken beautiful pictures of nebulae, galaxies, star nurseries, and planets. Every weekend, we retrieve one or more great space photos from the archives. Enjoy all the pictures? Check them out on this page.