Paranal, Chile-based Very Large Telescope has snapped detailed image of a huge cometary globule known as ‘Mouth of the Beast’ aka ‘God’s hand’ aka ‘CG4’, which is located some 1,300 light years away from Earth in the constellation of Puppis (The Poop).
The name of the nebula is based on its appearance and is a sub-type of a Bok globule – a very compact, very dense, very cold nebula. From the image, the ‘Mouth of the Beast’ looks spectacular, but it is in fact a dark cloud of space dust and gas where stars can form. Such nebula are only a light-year or two wide, and is said to contain mass of up to 100 times our sun.
The head of CG4 has a diameter of 1.5 light-years and its tail (not visible in the latest image) is about eight light-years long. By astronomical standards this makes it a comparatively small cloud.
Because of their dark appearance, it is very difficult to study them, but thanks to European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope, astronomers now have a detailed picture of the nebula. The picture shows the head part of the nebula, which is a thick cloud of gas and dust.
The primary reason it can be seen is because of the light from nearby stars. These stars are making it possible for Very Large Telescope to visualise it, but they are also responsible for the slow destruction of the nebula. Astronomers have said that the radiation from these stars is slowly eroding the particles of the nebula.
The form dispute
Astronomer camps have been divided on the reason behind the distinct form of cometary globules. There are two camps proposing two explanations. Some astronomers propose that cometary globules including the likes of CG4 could originally have been spherical nebulae, which were disrupted and acquired their new, unusual form because of the effects of a nearby supernova explosion.
The second camp’s theory is that cometary globules are shaped by stellar winds and ionising radiation from hot, massive OB stars.