Star Formation Factory

Article written: 18 Dec , 2006
Updated: 31 Jul , 2007
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The W3 star forming region. Image credit: ChandraYou’re looking at a star forming region known as W3. It’s located about 6,000 light-years from Earth in the Perseus arm of the Milky Way. It’s just a small part of a much larger molecular cloud complex called the W4 superbubble (not pictured here), which extends about 100 light-years across. As that superbubble expands, it’s giving these clouds of dust and gas just the bump they need to collapse and get down to the business of furious star formation.

Although it’s a beautiful photograph, it’s really a composite, made up of images taken by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and other optical telescopes. The blue and green objects are seen in X-rays, while the red objects are seen in visible light. If you could actually see this with your own eyes, it wouldn’t look anything like this.

A region like this is very interesting to astronomers because it helps them understand how star-forming happens in the spiral arms of the Milky Way, and other spiral galaxies.


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