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Gorgeous Gas

New observations of space clouds reveal stellar histories

By
8:14pm, May 18, 2003

Fierce winds of particles and radiation from massive stars can sculpt the universe. What would otherwise be dim regions of amorphous gas become transformed into luminous works of art. Resembling bright bubbles, these diaphanous expanses of gas and dust belong to the category of astronomical phenomena known as nebulas. Unlike most of the nebulas that populate the universe, these clouds are limned by arcs or rings and bathed in the blue light emitted by helium ions. That makes these cosmic beauties really hot stuff.

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