Infrared telescope spies mountains of star creation

These peaks of gas and dust in a part of the Cassiopeia constellation 7,000 light-years from Earth show hundreds of stars in the making (bright dots within the structures). Radiation and winds blasting from a massive star, which lies above the image frame, have compressed the structures, triggering waves of star birth.

L. Allen/Harvard Smithsonian CfA, JPL/NASA, Caltech

The infrared image was taken by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and released Nov. 9. It resembles “Pillars of Creation,” a famous, visible-light image of the Eagle nebula taken by the Hubble Space Telescope (SN: 3/16/02, p. 171: Available to subscribers Rethinking an Astronomical Icon). However, the structures in the new image are about 15 light-years long—10 times the length of those in the Hubble picture. The new image also provides greater detail because the new stars’ infrared light, unlike visible light, penetrates the dust of their mountain homes.

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