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Rho Ophiuchi Cloud Complex - 1

The Rho Ophiuchi Cloud Complex is a remarkable rich and colorful corner of the sky in the constellation Ophiuchus. The region is composed of dust and gas that is collapsing under its own gravity to form new stars. At a distance of about 500 light years, it is probably the closest stellar nursery to our Solar System.

The Cloud Complex gets its name from Rho Ophiuchi (visual magnitude +4.63) a hot binary star system in the constellation Ophiuchus. Rho Oph is embedded in the dust cloud and its light produces a blue reflection nebula. Similar reflection nebulae are seen around several other stars in the region including Iota and Sigma Scorpii, and HD 147889. The first magnitude star Antares (Alpha Scorpii) is surrounded by a rare red reflection nebula due to the class M supergiant's distictly crimson color. Several ribbon of dark nebulae can also be seen in Cloud Complex.

The globular cluster M4 (NGC 6121) appears 1.3 degrees west of Antares although it is much more distant than the Cloud Complex. It lies 7200 light years from Earth and has an apparent visual magnitude of +5.6.

See close-up of Rho Ophiuchi Cloud Complex.

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