A giant stellar nursery shows off its newborn stars in a new photo taken by a powerful telescope in the Southern Hemisphere.
The nursery — known formally as the Orion A molecular cloud — is actually the closest known “star factory” to Earth at 1,350 light-years away, according to the European Southern Observatory (ESO).
“The most spectacular object is the glorious Orion Nebula, also called Messier 42 seen towards the left of the image,” The ESO said in a statement.
That nebula actually creates part of the constellation Orion’s sword, if you want to train a pair of binoculars on it yourself sometime.
Other parts of the photo — which shows the molecular cloud in near-infrared wavelengths of light — reveal other fun objects in a far-off part of the cosmos.
Disks of gas and dust that may give rise to new stars, small star clusters, and perhaps even far-away galaxies can all be seen in the image, according to the ESO.
It’s important to peer into the universe in infrared light because it reveals things humans can’t see in visible wavelengths.
For example, many young stars in molecular clouds are obscured by dust in visible light, however, if you look at the cloud in infrared, it reveals those previously hidden objects.
Infrared light cuts through cosmic dust, revealing whatever might be beneath it.
The ESO’s VISTA infrared survey telescope in Chile captured this high-resolution image as part of the VISION survey, which has “resulted in a catalogue containing almost 800 000 individually identified stars, young stellar objects and distant galaxies,” according to the ESO.
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