Cosmic Buds

NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team

Flower-shaped nebula abound in the cosmos. This churning bud blossoms with new stars in a new infrared image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. The stars, called the Berkeley 5 cluster, show as blue dots to the right of the image. They shine in the cloud from which they formed only about a million years ago.

Explore the image from WISE. From the Berkeley 59 cluster, notice the red glow surrounding the hot, new stars. This warm dust is the basis for the stars’ formation. A green ‘leafy’ nebulosity wraps the cluster showing the edge of this starry cocoon. The cloud glows green from the presence of heated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. PAHs are molecules left over from combustion and we find these molecules on Earth in exhaust pipes and barbecue pits. Search the cloud for red blobs of light. These are second-generation stars forming near the edge of the cloud. The hot, blue stars in the center send out an intense solar wind, carving a hollow area within the cloud. As the gas and dust slam into the quieter space near the edges, it compresses, providing fuel for new stars. The cloud even contains a supernova remnant, NGC 7822. The massive star exploded, blasting the cloud open and leaving behind the floral look we now see. The hot, blue stars making up the Berkeley 5 cluster will likely explode as supernovae as well; in a few million years. The blue stars sprinkled throughout the image are foreground stars.

Berkeley 5 and NGC 7822 lie about 3,000 light-years from Earth toward the northern constellation Cepheus, the King.

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