[/caption]

Thanks to the incredible infra-red imagery of NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, we’re able to take a look into a tortured region of star formation. Infrared light in this image has been color-coded according to wavelength. Light of 3.6 microns is blue, 4.5-micron light is blue-green, 8.0-micron light is green, and 24-micron light is red. The data was taken before the Spitzer mission ran out of its coolant in 2009, and began its “warm” mission. This image reveals one of the most active and tumultuous areas of the Milky Way – Cygnus X. Located some 4,500 light years away, the violent-appearing dust cloud holds thousands of massive stars and even more of moderate size. It is literally “star soup”…

“Spitzer captured the range of activities happening in this violent cloud of stellar birth,” said Joseph Hora of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., who presented the results today at the 219th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas. “We see bubbles carved out by massive stars, pillars of new stars, dark filaments lined with stellar embryos and more.”

According to popular theory, stars are created in regions similar to Cygnus X. As their lives progress, they drift away from each other and it is surmised the Sun once belonged to a stellar association formed in a slightly less extreme environment. In regions like Cygnus X, the dust clouds are characterized with deformations caused by stellar winds and high radiation. The massive stars literally shred the clouds that birth them. This action can stop other stars from forming… and also cause the rise of others.

“One of the questions we want to answer is how such a violent process can lead to both the death and birth of new stars,” said Sean Carey, a team member from NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. “We still don’t know exactly how stars form in such disruptive environments.”

Thanks to Spitzer’s infra-red data, scientists are now able to paint a clearer picture of what happens in dusty complexes. It allows astronomers to peer behind the veil where embryonic stars were once hidden – and highlights areas like pillars where forming stars pop out inside their cavities. Another revelation is dark filaments of dust, where embedded stars make their home. It is visions like this that has scientists asking questions… Questions such as how filaments and pillars could be related.

“We have evidence that the massive stars are triggering the birth of new ones in the dark filaments, in addition to the pillars, but we still have more work to do,” said Hora.

Original Story Source: NASA Spitzer News Release.

Tammy Plotner

Tammy was a professional astronomy author, President Emeritus of Warren Rupp Observatory and retired Astronomical League Executive Secretary. She’s received a vast number of astronomy achievement and observing awards, including the Great Lakes Astronomy Achievement Award, RG Wright Service Award and the first woman astronomer to achieve Comet Hunter's Gold Status. (Tammy passed away in early 2015... she will be missed)

Recent Posts

27 to 78 cm of sea Level Rise Could be Locked in From Melting Greenland ice Caps

Recent climate research, published in the Nature Climate Change journal has confirmed that melting icecaps…

9 hours ago

Underground Liquid Water Detected on Mars? Maybe not

New research from Cornell University shows that radar reading from Mars' South Pole region may…

14 hours ago

LICIACube Sends Home Images of the DART Impact and the Damage to Dimorphos

The Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids (LICIACube) has returned a series of close-up…

17 hours ago

After Getting Slammed by DART, Asteroid Dimorphos has Grown a Tail

More images and details keep coming in about the asteroid intentionally smashed by NASA’s Double…

18 hours ago

Gaze Down Into the eye of Hurricane Ian, Seen From Orbit

NASA and NOAA satellites -- as well as astronauts on the ISS -- captured some…

1 day ago

Scientists Have Been Underestimating the Asteroid That Created the Biggest Known Crater on Earth

Ancient impacts played a powerful role in Earth's complex history. On other Solar System bodies…

1 day ago