A roiling interstellar cloud and filled with newborn stars shines in vivid colors in a newly released snapshot from the Hubble Space Telescope.
The wispy pink and yellow cloud in the new Hubble photo, which scientists released Tuesday, is made of mostly hydrogen gas heated by fierce ultraviolet radiation from the new stars at its heart. The cloud, called NGC 2467, lies in the southern constellation of Puppis about 13,000 light-years from Earth.
The stars form when gas in the cloud condenses under its own gravity and becomes packed enough to ignite nuclear fusion. Bright blue dots represent hot young stars in the photo, which includes observations taken from 2004.
Astronomers think most of the radiation in this nebula comes from the single hot and brilliant massive star just above the center of the image. Its strong radiation has cleared the surrounding region, and some of the next generation of stars are forming in the denser regions around the edge.
The NASA/ESA Hubble telescope was launched in April 1990. Since then, it has observed more than 30,000 celestial targets taken more than a half-million pictures in its archive. The most recent astronaut servicing mission to the observatory in May 2009 made the telescope 100 times more powerful than when it was first launched.
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