Herschel image of Aquila Rift
This colour-composite image of the Aquila Rift shows the extended filamentary structure of this star-forming cloud. A detailed study of this complex has shown 32 filaments that all appear to have very similar widths, with a value of about 0.3 light years.
Over 500 compact cores have been detected embedded in the filaments in this region: about 60 per cent of these are gravitationally bound, pre-stellar core candidates, the seeds of future stars. All pre-stellar cores are located in the densest, unstable filaments of the cloud - mostly along the two main filamentary streamers crossing the image diagonally from the top right to the lower left and from the top left downwards, respectively. About two hundred proto-stars have also been detected; some of them are visible as bright 'spots' along the main filaments.
The two glowing cavities on opposite sides of the image are HII regions, where young and bright stars illuminate the ionised hydrogen gas, causing it to shine.
Located at a distance of about 850 light years, the Aquila Rift belongs to the Gould Belt, a giant ring of stars and star-forming clouds in the vicinity of the Sun.
This image is based on observations performed by SPIRE at 500 μm and by PACS at 160 and 70 μm. These observations of the Aquila Rift are part of an extensive survey of the Gould Belt currently undertaken with Herschel.