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NGC 281/IC 1590 Bok globules and an emission nebula

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NGC 281 is the red nebulosity in the picture alongside, and it appears to be associated with the open cluster of stars, IC 1590. Though only a few cluster stars are seen here, over 60 have been identified and studied, yielding an age of about 3 million years, that of a very young cluster. One distinctive feature of this group is a compact, Trapezium-like cluster of very hot and luminous stars catalogued as HD 5005. This group of stars appears in the photograph as the single brightest star, and these pre-main sequence stars are likely responsible for the red nebulosity. They also confirm they confirm the extreme youth of the system. The wider cluster itself contains at least 250 young stars, most of them dimmed slightly by foreground interstellar dust.

While the red nebulosity and thus the molecular cloud seems to be mostly behind the star cluster, some of the dust intrudes from the south (bottom) of the picture. Other dust appears in silhouette, as an opaque and isolated dark cloud of a kind known as Bok globules, often associated with young clusters.

Photograph made from plates taken in October, 1991.
Top left is NE. Image width is about 34 arc min.

Credit: David Malin

© 1991-2002, David Malin/IAC/RGO (or David Malin/Instituto de Astrofisca des Canarias/Royal Greenwich Observatory)