Bumblebees and the Bubbles of Scutum

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Wisconsin

A bum­ble­bee hums around the part of the night-time sky dom­i­nated by the con­stel­la­tion Scu­tum in this infrared image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Tele­scope.

Explore the bub­bles in this image. What shapes or sto­ries do you see? Leave a note in the com­ments below.

The Milky Way Galaxy is full of won­ders and not all of them can be seen eas­ily with our naked eye. The stars and shapes in this image can­not be seen with­out the help of spe­cial tele­scopes and sen­sors aboard the orbit­ing Spitzer Space Tele­scope. Spitzer helps astronomers see warm objects, such as new stars, lurk­ing in cold dust clouds. These objects are hid­den from view by a thick veil of dust. The orbit­ing tele­scope sees the Uni­verse in the infrared part of the elec­tro­mag­netic spec­trum that lies just below the range of vis­i­ble light, like a rain­bow. We don’t see infrared light but we can feel it as heat.

New stars form­ing deep in these clouds blew bub­bles into the gas and dust. As they become hot­ter, the sur­round­ing neb­ula will expand and begin to glow as ultra­vi­o­let light floods the area. Some­day our naked eyes will behold new and spec­tac­u­lar nebulae.

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The ancient peo­ples saw pic­tures in the sky. From those pat­terns in the heav­ens, ancient sto­ry­tellers cre­ated leg­ends about heroes, maid­ens, drag­ons, bears, cen­taurs, dogs and myth­i­cal crea­tures…
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