Baby Blanket

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Harvard-Smithsonian CfA)

Newborn stars are tucked away in their baby blanket of gas and dust in this image of Rho Ophiuchus from NASA‘s Spitzer Space Telescope.

Zoom into the folds of molecular hydrogen gas glowing red in this image. Explore the bubble-like nebulae surrounding some of the stars. What shapes and stories do you see in this nebula? Leave a note below.

Rho Ophichus, or Rho Oph as it’s known by astronomers, is home to some very young stars. Researchers of have found more than 300 young objects within the central cloud with ages of only about 300,000 years. Their great-granddaddies, the oldest stars in the universe, are more than 12 billion years old. Even our Sun, with an age of more than 4 billion years is a grown-up to these young objects.

Spitzer sees the universe in infrared light. With the aid of the telescope, scientists can peer deep into cold clouds of star dust and see warm objects that might be the beginnings of stars. The colors of this infrared image represent temperatures within the star cloud. The colors also reveal aspects of the nebula surrounding the stars. The youngest stars surrounded by their dusty shrouds are tinged with yellow-green. Older stars in the nebula have already blown away their blankets of dust and show more blue-white.

Rho Oph is only 407 light-years from Earth making it one of the closest star-making regions. It lies toward the constellations Scorpius, the scorpion, and Ophiuchus, the snake charmer.

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