Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex

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ρ Ophiuchi cloud complex
Dark nebula
Infrared James Webb Space Telescope image (east is down), contained within the IC 4603 region[1][2]
Observation data: J2000.0 epoch
Right ascension16h 28m 06s[3]
Declination–24° 32.5′[3]
Distance460 ly (140 pc)[4] ly
Apparent dimensions (V)4.5° × 6.5°[5]
DesignationsOphiuchus molecular cloud, Integral 691, XSS J16271-2423
See also: Lists of nebulae

The Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex is a complex of interstellar clouds with different nebulae, particularly dark nebulae which is centered 1° south of the star ρ Ophiuchi, which it among others extends to, of the constellation Ophiuchus. At an estimated distance of about 140 parsecs, or 460 light years, it is one of the closest star-forming regions to the Solar System.[1][6][7]

Cloud complex[edit]

This cloud covers an angular area of 4.5° × 6.5° on the celestial sphere. It consists of two major regions of dense gas and dust. The first contains a star-forming cloud (L1688) and two filaments (L1709 and L1755), while the second has a star-forming region (L1689) and a filament (L1712–L1729). These filaments extend up to 10–17.5 parsecs in length and can be as narrow as 0.24 parsecs in width. The large extensions of the complex are also called Dark River clouds[8] (or Rho Ophiuchi Streamers) and are identified as Barnard 44 and 45. Some of the structures within the complex appear to be the result of a shock front passing through the clouds from the direction of the neighboring Sco OB2 association.[5]

Temperatures of the clouds range from 13–22 K, and there is a total of about 3,000 times the mass of the Sun in the material. Over half of the mass of the complex is concentrated around the L1688 cloud, and this is the most active star-forming region.[5] There are embedded infrared sources within the complex.[9] A total of 425 infrared sources have been detected near the L1688 cloud. These are presumed to be young stellar objects, including 16 classified as protostars, 123 T Tauri stars with dense circumstellar disks, and 77 weaker T Tauri stars with thinner disks.[4] The last 2 categories of stars have estimated ages ranging from 100,000 to a million years.[10]

The first brown dwarf to be identified in a star-forming region was Rho Oph J162349.8-242601, located in the Rho Ophiuchi cloud.[better source needed][11] One of the older objects at the edge of the primary star-forming region was found to be a circumstellar disk seen nearly edge-on. It spans a diameter of 300 AU and contains at least twice the mass of Jupiter. The million-year-old star at the center of the disk has a temperature of 3,000 K and is emitting 0.4 times the luminosity of the Sun.[12]

The 2023 NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope image—released on the telescope's first anniversary—shows young stars, roughly the size of the Sun, at the center of circumstellar discs. These represent planetary systems of the future being formed in a "stellar nursery".[1][7] Since the field of view of the photo is very small, at 6.4 arc-minutes, it displays just a tiny region of what appears in most other photographs of the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex. [13]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c K. Pontoppidan; A. Pagan (July 12, 2023). "Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex". NASA/ESA/CSA STScI. Retrieved July 12, 2023.
  2. ^ "Rho Ophiuchi (NIRCam Image)". Webb Space Telescope. Space Telescope Science Institute. 12 July 2023. Retrieved 14 July 2023.
  3. ^ a b "RHO OPH REGION -- Molecular Cloud". SIMBAD. Centre de Données astronomiques de Strasbourg. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
  4. ^ a b Bontemps, S.; et al. (June 2001). "ISOCAM observations of the rho Ophiuchi cloud: Luminosity and mass functions of the pre-main sequence embedded cluster". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 372: 173–194. arXiv:astro-ph/0103373. Bibcode:2001A&A...372..173B. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20010474. S2CID 17270972.
  5. ^ a b c Loren, Robert B. (March 15, 1989). "The cobwebs of Ophiuchus. I - Strands of (C-13)O - The mass distribution". Astrophysical Journal, Part 1. 338: 902–924. Bibcode:1989ApJ...338..902L. doi:10.1086/167244.
  6. ^ "Young Stars in Their Baby Blanket of Dust". Spitzer Multimedia Features. NASA. 2008-11-02. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
  7. ^ a b Miller, Katrina (12 July 2023). "A Year of Cosmic Wonder With the James Webb Space Telescope - With a new image, NASA commemorates the first anniversary of doing science with the most powerful observatory ever sent to space". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 12 July 2023. Retrieved 13 July 2023.
  8. ^ a b "APOD: 2010 July 19 - Dark River Wide Field". Astronomy Picture of the Day. 2010-06-06. Retrieved 2021-08-06.
  9. ^ Wilking, B. A.; Lada, C. J. (November 15, 1983). "The discovery of new embedded sources in the centrally condensed core of the Rho Ophiuchi dark cloud - The formation of a bound cluster". Astrophysical Journal, Part 1. 274: 698–716. Bibcode:1983ApJ...274..698W. doi:10.1086/161482.
  10. ^ Luhman, K. L.; Rieke, G. H. (November 1999). "Low-Mass Star Formation and the Initial Mass Function in the ρ Ophiuchi Cloud Core". The Astrophysical Journal. 525 (1): 440–465. arXiv:astro-ph/9905286. Bibcode:1999ApJ...525..440L. doi:10.1086/307891. S2CID 119393698.
  11. ^ Martín, Eduardo L. (2001). "Spectroscopy of Young Brown Dwarfs and Isolated Planetary Mass Objects". In Jones, Hugh R. A.; Steele, Iain A. (eds.). Ultracool Dwarfs: New Spectral Types L and T. Springer. pp. 153–167. ISBN 3-540-42353-2.
  12. ^ Grosso, Nicolas (May 7, 2002). "Infrared Images of an Infant Solar System". Press Releases. European Southern Observatory. Retrieved 2009-10-25.
  13. ^ "Rho Ophiuchi (NIRCam Image)". STScI. 2023-07-12. Retrieved 2023-11-05.

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