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'Pacman' Nebula Grows Teeth, Chomps Way Through Cosmos (PHOTO)

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  • pacman nebula
    (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA)
    In visible light, the star-forming cloud catalogued as NGC 281 in the constellation of Cassiopeia appears to be chomping through the cosmos, earning it the nickname the "Pacman" nebula after the famous Pac-Man video game of the 1980s.
By Fionna Agomuoh, Christian Post Contributor
October 28, 2011|1:16 pm

Scientists have discovered a new feature on the "Pacman" nebula, a gaping mouth and a set of sharp-looking teeth.

The Pacman nebula, officially known as, NGC 281, earned its nickname due to its resemblance to the 1980's video game character, Pac-Man.

When NASA begun viewing the dust and gas clouds of the nebula through visible-light telescopes, scientists noted that "the large star-forming cloud appeared to be chomping its way through the cosmos," in the shape of Pac-Man; however, when viewed in infrared light, the nebula seems to have a "large set of lower teeth," NASA reported.

NASA discovered the alternate view of the Pacman nebula, before completing its mission at the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, a sky-mapping observatory, in Feb. 2011.

Nebulas serve as nurseries for premature stars. As per photos taken by WISE, the nebulas "teeth" seem to be pillar like areas where new stars are forming, scientists detailed.

According to astronomy website, Space.com the "teeth" were cause by radiation and wind from larger, more mature stars within the nebula that have blown gas and dust away.

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The remaining material, still protecting younger stars have taken the form of these teeth-like pillars.

The cluster of young stars is called IC 1590 and can be seen in the center of the "mouth" of the Pacman nebula.

According to astronomy website, Astronomy.com, the red dots in the photo are the youngest stars still forming in cocoons of dust throughout the nebula.

The Pacman nebula is 130 light-years wide and is located 9,200 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia.

 

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