Cosmic Valentine

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team

Massive star-making regions make up the heart and soul of the cosmos in this image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer.

Explore the giant bubbles blown by new stars in this image. What shapes and stories does your imagination create? Leave a message below.

The huge bubbles dominate both nebula. Hot, new stars blast the surrounding gas and dust clouds with ultraviolet radiation and solar winds. These winds carve out hollows in the cloud and drive gas and dust clouds together. When enough of this star-making stuff collects in one spot, gravity pulls it together and it could light up and become a star. With infrared sensors, WISE can peer deep into the cold star clouds and show scientists warm areas that might be the formation of new stars. These glowing spots of light in the dust are just a few million years old.

Toward the bottom of the image you’ll notice a couple of blue smudges of light. These are Maffei 1 and 2. These galaxies are only about 10 million light-years from Earth and lie within the general neighborhood of our Milky Way Galaxy. Maffei 1 is the bluish elliptical galaxy to the right. Maffei 2, to the left, is a spiral galaxy similar to the Milky Way.

The Heart Nebula, to the right, was named because it resembled a human heart. The nebula is also known as IC 1805. The Soul Nebula, the large bubble to the left, is also known as the Embryo Nebula, IC 1848 and W5. Both nebula span nearly 680 light-years across. Both nebulae are found about 6,000 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Casseopeia, the Queen. They are part of the Perseus Spiral Arm in our Milky Way Galaxy just a bit farther out from the center of the galaxy than the spiral arm that contains our solar system.

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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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